How Catch-22 Landed Me in a Catch-22…

…of sorts, anyway.

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s 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 were 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. (p. 56, ch. 5)

I’m reading Catch-22, among other things, with one of my tutoring students. Why? Because he wanted to read Catch-22. Some books have a mystique to them for my students. They’ve heard about the book, they’ve heard about characters in the book, or some other book we’re reading references the book. And then they want to read the book. Well this particular book is about to make me as insane as Orr.

I have a theory about classic, canonicized texts. Said opinion easily constitutes a separate blog post that perhaps I will write later. But suffice it to say that I think a number of canonical texts should lead perfectly fine existences as texts that others reference, but rarely ever read, and that society should stop pressuring us to read them. Or even more specifically, ETS should stop pressuring us to read them. Catch-22 is one of these books.

Don’t get me wrong. Catch-22 is funny. Clever. But it’s decidedly not a favorite of mine.

So when a student wanted to read it — a student who pretty regularly decides I suck at picking out books for us to read together or for him to read on his own — I threw up my hands and said “fine.” And thought, there’s no way this is going to stick anyway. That book is dreadful.

Well, it stuck. He seems to be enjoying it and I’m finding that reading it out loud and having someone to talk to about it actually makes it a lot more fun. The book that was driving me insane is strangely making me more sane, which means I need to keep reading it. If I were insane, I wouldn’t have to read it, but as soon as I admit that I’m insane I’m sane for not wanting to read it… oh, nevermind.

So I’m stuck reading the rest of this book with this kid whose taste in books I still can’t figure out. Oh well. We’ll have a grand old time talking about sanity and insanity and war and peace and logic and irony. Off to tutoring I go, caught in my Catch-22.