ACOM Book Club News For November 2019

ACOM Book for NovThe ACOM Book Club met on Thursday, November 21, 2019, at the Merriam Park library in St. Paul. In attendance were Francis, Tashina, Margaret, Jim and me. This month's book was "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller.

One of the first things that was discussed was that the book states that the main character, Yossarian, is Assyrian, not Armenian, despite his name. I think that we kind of agreed that the author was mistaken and that Assyrians mustn't have names ending in 'ian'. At the very least, he must have been the product of a mixed marriage.

Francis thought that the writing was good, but that he had a hard time keeping his interest because the author jumped around so much. Tashina and I also agreed that he broke the timeline up too much. You'll be reading a reference to something that happened in the past and then, with no warning or lead-in, the story line will be at the point that it happened.

We talked about the concept of Catch-22. It originally shows up in the book as the quandary that you can request to be relieved from active duty if you're determined to be crazy, but that fact that you are making the request proves that you're concerned about your life therefore you're not crazy. It is also used in several other situations in the book.

We talked about why "Catch-22" was such an important book. It was originally published in 1955. By at least the mid to late 1960s it was required reading in high school literature classes (Jim, Margaret and I remember reading it), and it was still required in some high schools in the early 2000s (at least one of my sons read it in high school). My idea was that it was one of the first if not the first book after World War II to make fun of war, to speak out against some parts of it, to make the point that many military officers weren't concerned about the men that they led or even the actions of the war, they were just concerned about their personal glory.

Using Milo's actions in the book as an example, we talked about who profits from war, mentioning Halliburton in Iraq and Dwight Eisenhower's warning about the military industrial complex when he left the presidency in 1961.

A comment that Azad sent through email applies here. He liked the exchange between Yossarian and Clevinger in chapter 12 where Clevinger talks about winning the war and Yossarian shoots back saying "Open your eyes. It doesn't make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead." Azad thinks that that dialog is the heart and soul of why we go to war.

It was mentioned that Joseph Heller saw active duty in World War II (in airplanes?) and that probably makes some of his scenes in the planes more realistic.

We talked a little bit about the movie of "Catch-22" with Alan Arkin as Yossarian. I made the point that I liked the end of the movie better than the end of the book. After Yossarian finds out that Orr was alive and that he had made it to Sweden, Yossarian decides that he can go there, too. In the book he arranges a ride to Rome and plans to try to get to Sweden from there. In the movie, he runs down to the ocean, gets into a rubber raft, and starts paddling away.

In amongst our comments on the book, Francis and Jim talked about some important teachers in their lives. We also talked about other war movies and the future of war.

We did not make any proposals for next month's book. If we have a meeting in December it would be on Thursday the 19th. Any of you can send in proposals for a book to read for the month. Does anyone know of any Christmas book related to Armenia in any way?


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