Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Best Catch There Is

Friday arrived just in time for Yours truly this week.  I spent all of yesterday away from the company of those with whom I work.  I was myself working in the morning (making stops in exotic locales ranging from Elizabeth to Toms River) but spent the afternoon playing the part of Pony Boy.  The Missus, Joe and I joined the Sisters Kizis and some other friends at Monmouth Park Race Track.  First time in my life I had ever been anywhere to watch live racing.  Ten races on the card and not one damn horse named "FUTUREGLUESTICK", "NEXTWEEKSDOGCHOW" or "IMCOMINGAREYOU?"  Note to self:  need to check with Tom Swales to see if anyone in horse racing business has a sense of humor....other than the Marx Brothers of course.

It was good for all concerned that yesterday I was not around to harsh their collective mellow.  I have been locked into a state of perpetual irritation at work for the past couple of weeks and yesterday could have morphed into "Punch Someone in the Larynx" Day or some such thing had I been there all day.  Perhaps Monday's arrival will bring not only a new work week but a new outlook?  Perhaps it will be transformed into "Punch Someone in the Larynx" Day?   The latter is highly unlikely although as Mark Twain once observed, "Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."  I would be willing to wager that old Sam Clemens never got hit in the larynx lest he would be whistling a slightly different tune.  Then again, if he took a shot to the old larynx I suppose he would not be whistling a whole hell of a lot of anything.     

This past week I have started on my summer reading.  'Tis amazing how much more time one has to read when one is anti-social.  I would wager that it has been at least thirty years since I have read Catch-22, which as anyone who knows my brother Bill (or reads him on at least a semi-regular basis) is his favorite novel.  I read it so long ago - and only just that one time - that I had forgotten just how much of it I had forgotten until I sat down to start reading it again a few days ago.  Simply fantastic stuff.  I purchased the "50th Anniversary" edition of it, which includes Christopher Buckley's Introduction in which Buckley noted that Joseph Heller died disappointed by the realization that Catch-22, which was his first novel, was his most successful one both commercially and critically.   Imagine feeling depressed at not having produced a second work as influential as your first one as opposed to feeling fulfilled by the fact that you had produced the first one.  Sadly for Heller, it seems almost as if his life ended up imitating his art.

Fortunately for the rest of us, what art it is that he created....

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own 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.



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