This is entry #75 in our ongoing 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.
Philosopher: Mark Schroeder, University of Southern California
Artwork: Joseph Heller, Catch-22. Published November 10, 1961, by Simon and Schuster. (novel; 453 pages; ISBN 0-671-12805-1)
Words: Catch-22 took my breath away when I encountered it about 25 years ago. I was drawn in because it captured all of my deepest teenage frustrations, true. But it was the first work of art whose craftsmanship was so stunning and so consistent that I couldn’t even imagine how one would go about creating such a thing. The book’s incessantly circular storytelling, emphasizing the circularity in the central ‘catch’, and intricate atemporal development, still strike me as a gripping human achievement. And I’m still drawn to artwork of all kinds that makes me go ‘how did a human do that?’