Sunday, March 28, 2010

War Novels - 2

Here's a great and funny novel that I overlooked while posting the other day, Catch 22, by Joseph Heller. I had been in the Navy for eleven or twelve years when this come out in 1961, and by then I was very familiar with military bureaucracy and terminology. This novel made me laugh heartily over the antics of the characters doing their duty on an island off Italy late in the war. It takes military orders and life to the point of absurdity with the fabricated Catch 22, which was picked up and used by some in the military to describe that life. It's a "damned if you, damned if you don't" sort of thing, and became a popular catchword in the military and elsewhere.

I read Good Soldier Schweik, a novel by Jaroslav Hasek, later on after retiring from the Navy, and noticed the similarities and it reminded me of a short story by James Michener, I think it was, about a Naval officer walking across the country to report to his new duty station. He took the term "Proceed" literally since the orders didn't say how he was supposed to travel or provided for transportation or a time limit. It took the officer months to reach his destination, an unheard of length of time for travel in the modern age. This story may, or may not, have appeared in Tales of the South Pacific, another fine cluster of tales on which the movie, South Pacific, was based.    

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