As booksellers, we often overhear customers lamenting that they've always meant to read “that other Jane Austen novel,” or Graham Greene, or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but just never found the time. We've tried to remedy that with our Classics I Forgot to Read Book Club by providing motivation and a welcoming space to share your thoughts.

In choosing our ‘classics’ over the past few years, we've tried to select titles that had some visibility among readers, but were not necessarily included in the standard high school English class. We've also sampled a range of genres, from mystery (The Long Goodbye) to comedy (Cold Comfort Farm) to stream-of-consciousness (To the Lighthouse). So, whether our picks are already gathering dust on your bookshelves or this is your first encounter with the literary canon, we encourage you to join us on the last Wednesday evening of every month for conversation about the classics.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October 2008--Catch-22

by Joseph Heller

From page 247 of the American Heritage Dictionary (Second College Edition):

Catch-22, n., A difficult situation or problem whose seemingly alternative solutions are logically invalid.

You can make a case, I'm sure, for The Naked and the Dead or From Here to Eternity as the great American World War II novel, but neither of them has achieved proverbial status. This darkly comic tale of an American airman trying to use madness to opt out of the madness is an emphatic statement about the horrors of war and bureaucracy. Yossarian, the justifiably paranoid antihero of the story, is not a pacifist, and in fact he's a pretty formidable soldier when he heeds to be. He just insists on being treated as an individual with his own rights and desires, rather than a cog in a machine functioning for the benefit of a few. While aspects of Heller's critique may no longer seem fresh, it's only because so many people have repeated what he was among the first to say.

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