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Catch-22: Chapters 5-8
Chapters Read: 5. Chief White Halfoat, 6. Hungry Joe, 7. McWatt, 8. Lieutenant Scheisskopf
Page reached:: 76 of 448 (16.96%).
Status Report: On the one hand, the "Who's On First" routine is getting wearisome; on the other, the book is a pretty easy read ("because of" or "despite of" the schtick, I haven't yet decided), so I'm not sure it matters. Still, I hope this doesn't become one of those novels I find myself devouring at every available opportunity not because it is compulsively readable but simply because I want it to be over.
Now my biggest concern is the sheer number of people to which we have been introduced. Heller uses more characters than most authors use verbs, and this may prove to be a problem. I have the mental wherewithal to hold about four characters in my head during any given story, and then only if they are all suitably distinct--preferably one man, one woman, one child, and a pet of some sort, all with wildly divergent names. I'm the kind of guy who can lose track of the characters in My Dinner With Andre.
Worse, it's never obvious, in Catch-22, which characters are "real" (i.e., essential to the alleged plot, which people swear is going to stroll onto the scene at some point) and which are just extended shaggy-dog jokes, never to be seen again. I'll tell you this much: any character that doesn't surface at least once every third chapter is going down my memory hole. Even as I typed the chapter titles above I was, like, "Chief White Who?"
Fun book, so far. That said, this dog-chasing-its-tail style of writing is certainly not for everyone. I'm at the point now where I can, with some confidence, make two predictions: after I finish reading Catch-22, I (1.) will have enjoyed it, and (2) will not begrudge anyone who hated it.
Clevinger was one of those people with lots of intelligence and no brains, and everyone knew it except those who soon found it out. In short, he was a dope. He often looked to Yossarian like one of those people hanging around modern museums with both eyes together on one side of a face. It was an illusion, of course, generated by Clevinger's predilection for staring fixedly at one side of a question and never seeing the other side at all.
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