Book Reviews: A Catch-22 History Twofer
Catch-22 is my all time favorite book. So when I learned about The Bridgebusters, it immediately shot to the top of my Goodreads “Want to Read” list. It has everything to make it a perfect read for me: airplanes, history and Heller. Then I found out about The True Story of Catch-22, written by the daughter of the real Colonel Cathcart, so I daisy-chained right into what turned out to be the Yin for Cleaver’s Yang.
The Bridgebusters is a history book of the 57th Bomb Wing in which Joseph Heller served as a bombardier on a B-25 during World War II. Cleaver details the missions primarily in the context of the Allied campaign to liberate Italy which, frankly, I am less familiar with than Operation Overlord and the action of the Eighth Air Force’s B-17s bombing Germany from England. Heller is shown as the cog he was in the U.S. fighting machine that defeated the Nazis and Cleaver puts forth an interesting theory of the author’s true relationship to Yossarian. (4 of 5 Stars)
The True Story of Catch-22 is less a history book and more a collection of personal memoirs of the men of Heller’s 488th squadron. As the daughter of the unit’s commanding officer, Meder has a direct and much more personal relationship with the subject and her focus is mapping the novel’s characters to real men fighting a real war, which is a much different story than Bridgebusters, but an equally interesting one, especially with all of the pictures she pulled out of her father’s attic. (4 of 5 Stars)
Now that I’ve read “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey was fond of saying, I’m re-reading Catch-22. On a personal note, having attempted a satirical novel (In the Black) based on personal experiences and inspired by Heller’s masterpiece, these books were a fascinating study in the tangled web of fact and fiction for me.