Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

Mark Schroeder on Catch-22


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?’

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