Here are the books I’ve read in July, in chronological order.
Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible: This is probably my fault for leaving this on my shelf for so long, but this book is already outdated, because it was written in 2008. I didn’t find this book as educational or informative as Hyperspace, and I was disappointed in it. I found the book repetitive and tedious at times. I will continue to read books about physics, but it may be a while before I revisit Michio Kaku. The psychic animals that I shared earlier still remains the best part of the book.
Louise Gluck’s A Village Life: I already wrote about this somewhat extensively yesterday, so I thought I’d just leave another part of a poem that I loved, Solitude:
“Now we return to what we were,
animals living in darkness
without language or vision –
Nothing proves I’m alive.
There is only the rain, the rain is endless.”
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22: I am planning on writing a book review about this soon, but what is there to say that hasn’t already been said over the last 50 years? This book is dark, hysterical, satirical, and deeply moving. I never wanted it to end, and I understand now why a girl I went to school with wrote “Yossarian Lives!” on the front of her notebooks and binders. I will try to watch the movie adaptation soon as well, but I am a little nervous to see it as a movie – have you seen it before?
Kenji Yoshino’s Speak Now: I have been thinking about Yoshino recently in light of the presidential race. The way that he humanizes and explains the position of those who disagree with him has really spoken to me. It may be easier for him because his “side” won the case, but the book was written devoid of anger and blame while still being extremely personal. I think that is such an accomplishment in and of itself. It is a kind of grace that I find myself lacking, and I try to remind myself of it whenever I am upset with what I read in the news.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant: This was Mary’s pick for our next book club meeting. I’ll be sharing a reading guide and some discussion questions next week as I sift through all of the information out there. For now, I’ll say that I thought this is one of the best books by Ishiguro that I have read recently. I didn’t like When We Were Orphans or A Pale View of Hills very much and was almost ready to throw in the towel on Ishiguro.
If you haven’t noticed, Kimberly is out on vacation this week, so I’ve been trying to hold down the fort without her! I’ve broken down this week into two categories for you. It’s short and sweet – Art & Fun!
This week, we posted:
This weekend, I’ll be going to brunch with the Bloody Mary Club, an outdoor concert, and stopping by the Guggenheim. What are your plans?
I had so much fun with last week’s post that I decided to continue finding famous paintings to match my visions of the characters in Catch-22. This week, I present to you the star-crossed lovers (kind of) Lieutenant Nately and Nately’s whore (I’m sorry, she doesn’t have a name!)
Lieutenant Nately –
You are a Nately, and the Natelys have never done anything for their money
John Singer Sargent, Dr. Samuel Jean Pozzi at Home
Nately’s Whore –
Nately had spent the last thirty-two hours at twenty dollars an hour with the apathetic whore he adored, and he had nothing left of his pay or of the lucrative allowance he received every month from his wealthy and generous father. That meant he could not spend time with her anymore. She would not allow him to walk beside her as she strolled the pavements soliciting other servicemen, and she was infuriated when she spied him trailing her from a distance.
I have about 100 pages left of the book, and I really don’t want it to end!
If Catch-22 Characters were Famous Paintings, Part I
Joseph Heller has an impressive and extensive vocabulary. His sentences are so complex and intricate, that I find myself lost and winding through the sentences again and again. I have to pause regularly to look up new words. Inspired by Kimberly, I thought I’d share the words I’m learning as well!
- Vituperation: vi·tu·per·a·tion (noun) – bitter and abusive language
Yossarian let the girl drag him through the lovely Roman spring night for almost a mile until they reached a chaotic bus depot honking with horns, blazing with red and yellow lights and echoing with the snarling vituperations of unshaven bus drivers pouring loathsome, hair-raising curses out at each other, at their passengers, and at the strolling, unconcerned knots of pedestrians clogging their paths, who ignored them until they were bumped by the buses and began shouting curses back.
- Esoteric: esəˈterik (adjective) – intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest
The man and woman stepped into the room stiffly side by side as though right out of a familiar, though esoteric, anniversary daguerreotype on a wall.
- Truculence (noun) – defiance, aggression
His round white cap was cocked in an insolent tilt, his hands were clenched, and he glared at everything in the room with a scowl of injured truculence.
- Otiose: o·ti·ose (adjective) – serving no practical purpose or result
His own girl sat sprawled out gracelessly on an overstuffed sofa with an expression of otiose boredom.
- Torpid: tor·pid (adjective) – mentally or physically inactive; lethargic.
Nately was unnerved by her torpid indifference to him, by the same sleepy and inert pose that he remembered so vividly, so sweetly, and so miserably from the first time she had seen him and ignored him at the packed penny-ante blackjack game in the living room of the enlisted men’s apartment.
- Lissome: lis·some (adjective) – (of a person or their body) thin, supple, and graceful
A lissome, blonde, sinuous girl with lovely legs and honey-colored skin laid herself out contentedly on the arm of the old man’s chair and began molesting his angular, pale, dissolute face languidly and coquettishly.
I’m currently on Chapter 12 of Catch-22. I’ve mentioned before that I’m taking notes to keep track of the characters that appear in the book. As I have been jotting down names, quick descriptions & anecdotes, I started thinking about which paintings I would pick, if these characters were famous paintings. I’ll be presenting these in batches, as inspiration strikes.
“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.”
Pablo Picasso, Man with a Lollipop
Dori Duz —
Dori Duz was a lively little tart of copper-green and gold who loved doing it best in toolsheds, phone booths, field houses and bus kiosks. There was little she hadn’t tried and less she wouldn’t. She was shameless, slim, nineteen, and aggressive. She destroyed egos by the score and made men hate themselves in the morning for the way she found them, used them and tossed them aside.
Edward Hopper, Automat
What do you think? What paintings would you pick for your favorite characters?
Joseph Heller began working on Catch-22 in 1953 and it was published in 1961. The term “Catch-22” has been around as long as I can remember. I didn’t realize the term was actually coined by Joseph Heller in his book, Catch-22. I have always assumed that the phrase came before the book, and not the other way around. I wasn’t able to find the exact year that Catch-22 was entered into the dictionary, so if you know this, please let me know!
Merriam-Webster defines the word as:
1 : a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule <the show-business catch–22—no work unless you have an agent, no agent unless you’ve worked — Mary Murphy>; also : the circumstance or rule that denies a solution
2 a : an illogical, unreasonable, or senseless situation
b : a measure or policy whose effect is the opposite of what was intended
c : a situation presenting two equally undesirable alternatives
3: a hidden difficulty or means of entrapment
The term is first introduced by Doc Daneeka, when Yossarian visits him to try to get out of combat duty:
“You mean there’s a catch?””Sure there’s a catch”, Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”
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.
The number 22 seems to have no apparent meaning, but Heller and his publisher liked the repetitiveness of the number two. The first chapter was originally published in New World Writing as Catch-18, but in 1961, Mila 18, another book about World War II was published, and so Heller was asked to reconsider the number. After trying a series of other numbers (including 11, 14), 22 was decided on. Can you imagine saying Catch-14 instead of Catch-22?
I’m slowly making my way through this book. It’s definitely one of the denser books that I’ve started to read this year. I’ve found myself needing to take notes throughout the book in order to keep track of who’s who and what’s what, so I can’t read the book mindlessly on my commute to work. I’m on page 100 so far, and I’m finding it worth the effort. It’s laugh-out-loud funny at times, and I’m excited to share more with you as I discover it!