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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My old book

My article for Total Politics on a favourite old book is now on-line here or your can read it below:

Catch-22 remains my favourite book of all time, brilliantly capturing the daily horrors of war through the comic- tragic adventures of a group of airmen flying missions in the European theatre of World War II.

Heller mercilessly sends up the bureaucracy that hampers so much of the American armed forces and undermines morale, whether it is the dead man in Yossarian’s tent, who the authorities refuse to acknowledge or the promotion of Major Major by an IBM machine with a sense of humour.

There is Milo Minderbender, the capitalist who uses his position to profit from the war, even accepting a contract to bomb his own airbase.

And then there is Catch-22 itself, the doctrine that specifies that a concern for one's safety in the face of real and immediate danger is the process of a rational mind. You cannot fly if you’re crazy, but the moment you point this out to the authorities you are rated as sane and fit to fly.

I first read this book during my degree exams for relaxation. My then room mate and I used to read out extracts to each other as a displacement exercise so as to avoid facing up to the challenges of the next exam paper.

I may have learnt more from this book than the whole course.
I read the book while in college, but in my first year and before end of year exams. It is a great book, the movie ain't 'alf bad either. I felt sorry for 'Major Major'. The hapless soldier appointed Major so that his scallywag superiors could continue with their various schemes to make money while Major Major pretended not to be in (his office) and if he was in people wanting to see him were kept waiting until he climbed out his window whereupon the visitors were invited to go into his office, and wherein he would put on a fake piece of hair on his face to pretend to be an ordinary soldier to play basket-ball or whatever and got beaten up by his fellow players who could rest easy because though they knew he was the Major in charge, since he was pretending to be someone else they could not be court marshaled for beating up a superior officer... and the beat went on.
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