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Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.

"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.” 


Here you can also see what I'm knitting at the moment. This is the Dune scarf and I'm using one of the yarns I hand-dyed myself. 

I don't usually read books about war. They are not really my genre. However, I try to broaden my perspective and pick books that aren't initially appealing to me or about things that I necessarily like or know of. Sometimes I find out that my preliminary preconception about the book and the subject was right and I didn't like the book or couldn't identify with it. And then there are times when I'm glad I started to read because otherwise I would have missed a great story. This book is of the latter category.

I bought this book because of the ratings and praise it had received. Just look at any of the "100 books you should read before you die" or "top 50 best books ever" lists and this book is almost certainly listed. I didn't even know what the book was about when I started to read it and was a bit taken aback when realising it was about a war. 

In the beginning I wasn't even sure what war we were talking about: WWI, WWII or some other made up war that hasn't really happened but could have. I didn't know if the main characters were Brits or American, the only clue in the beginning was that Yossarian (the main protagonist) was of an Assyrian heritage. Soon I picked up that they were flying bombers so I concluded that the book was probably not about the First World War (although they did introduce the first airplanes during that war). Then I gathered that the unit of soldiers were Americans and that they were stationed on a small island of Pianosa in Italy. On page 50 or so there was a small remark about Hitler, which made me dance a little victory dance: American bombardiers fighting Germans in Italy during WWII, got it! I could have just gone online, read a summary about the book and know these things already on page 1, but what's the fun in that? I like not knowing more than the author lets you to find out. I don't want to spoil things.


Me not reading war books brought forth an unexpected problem while reading. A lot of the book is about the men in the same unit and their internal disputes and friendships. Some of it was really hard for me to understand because I don't know the order of the military ranks. I have no idea who is higher in rank: a major or a lieutenant, a corporal or a colonel. I didn't know what "enlisted men" meant before checking it up. In other genres of literacy the title doesn't really matter, all you need to know that the character is in military, but when reading war books this is essential information. After pestering Magnus with questions, he soon provided me with a list of the ranks so I could check for myself.

The beginning of the book is quite incoherent: the story jumped around a lot and many new characters were introduced, most of them only by name and military rank. At first I wasn't sure if I liked the book and was already thinking about setting it aside and reading something else. I decided to continue though, because so many people had listed it as one of the greatest books of the century. The writer has a bit of an unusual way of describing things that have happened; he starts telling of one occasion and then after a couple of sentences he jumps to another thing. At first you couldn't really get a grip on anything, but the book will come back to those same occasions again and again, each time bringing a bit more insight and content to them. By the end of the book it will all make sense.

The pile of books keeps on growing.

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