“Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.”
One of my favorite movies of all time is Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The way that it puts a magnifying glass on wartime mentality and the underlining hilarity of how organized everyone is trying to be when people are dying left and right is unmatched. It’s war. As rational as politicians try to make it sound, it’s humanity at its worst. Yet, there’s truly something hilarious about witnessing the human condition at its most desperate. Just flip on the TV; desperation hits us from all angles (Jersey Shore, Celebrity Rehab, The Real Housewives of _______). And when is someone more desperate than when they must kill or be killed?
Joseph Heller saw war for what it is: a comedy of errors. Forget about the “heroes,” the military generals giving heartfelt speeches, and the “winning.” Catch-22 features none of that garbage. The protaganist, Yossarian, is just a normal guy who wants to make it out alive. The only problem is that he is continuously assigned more and more combat missions. The novel is episodic and each chapter is named after a different character you meet, generally revolving around said character. For all of the accusations of insanity hurled at Yossarian, through the story it is revealed that every character is a little bit insane. Wartime seems to only amplify everyone’s little eccentricities.
Heller’s novel was the inspiration behind Dr. Strangelove, as well as the popular TV show, M*A*S*H, and countless other writers have picked up where Heller left off to expose war for what it really is: zany. Catch-22 is easily one of the funniest books I’ve ever read and I am always stunned to read when someone “couldn’t finish it,” or, even worse, that someone thought it was lame or unfunny. Ignore these people; they have ADD and lack a sense of humor. Although, in their defense, it was no I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell…