So Barb and I decided to start this off writing on the same topic…..which is what is each of our favorite books of all times, except Barb will write favourite.
Anyway. there’s really only two contenders for me. It is typical to have a lo
t of disclaimers–I’ve read a bunch of great books, many of them great in their own way, etc–but for me the contenders are Catch-22 and Confederacy of Dunces. From those two, I would pick Catch-22.
It doesn’t escape my notice that both of the books are dark comedies. I like dark and I like funny, so why not put the two tastes together in a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup of literary brilliance.
I was given Catch-22 to read when I was 17 years old. Our family was traveling in Europe that summer, and there was considerable downtime as we visited various families. Once I got involved in the book, it never let me go. I read for hours on end hidden away in an unused living room of the home in Brussels.
So, I have been struggling to explain why Catch-22 is my favorite book. I have not been able to find words to describe it that doesn’t come off sounding predictable and trite. And I guess that’s what you would expect. In fact, that’s what I was thinking this morning…it’s like trying to describe why I love rye whiskey (shill: Sazerac), Bolognese, a cool breeze on a sunny fall day, my wife—you get the idea. It is something that just is.
It’s like trying to describe an orgasm.
So, Catch-22 is my favorite book. There is timing that matters when you read a book. I read that book as I was just beginning to form my own perspective on the world. Catch-22 is a big book that delivers a fully-envisioned
world view to its readers, as it should. The worldview is not comforting at first–it is built on chaos and human fallibility and malevolence, where the guy who’s getting ahead might be the guy who crashes all the time, and where everyday people are often powerless as individuals–witness Catch-22 itself. This is a dark vision, but it does pay off to what I feel is its ultimate lesson, which is that the only way to survive is to view it all as a divine comedy.
That book defined my world view and continues to inform it to this day, baked somewhere inside my firmware. The world is completely fucked up place full of completely fucked up people who sometimes mean well and sometimes don’t, and your best bet is to think it is funny.
So maybe there were words. Those are more words about me. Much like a symphony or a painting, a great book exists mostly at a level beyond words.