Catch-22 – November 10th, 1961

by Joseph Heller

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4:17-4:44; 14:33-14:35; 15:06-15:19; 15:28-15:37; 15:52-15:58

Above Danny’s head at first breakfast is a copy of Heller’s Catch-22.


Like Catcher in the Rye, it’s considered one of the greatest books of the 20th century.


It appears during the 257th second of the film (4:17), and it’s about the fictional 256th Squadron, based on the island of Pianosa, in the Mediterranean Sea (which is, incidentally, where Octopus’s Garden was composed, and that song plays while that book is in the background, in a later scene). It’s a satire about army men trying to maintain their sanity while fulfilling their service requirements in a bid to return home.

Consider this analysis from the Wiki: “Many events in the book are repeatedly described from differing points of view, so the reader learns more about each event from each iteration, with the new information often completing a joke, the setup of which was told several chapters previously. The narrative’s events are out of sequence, but events are referred to as if the reader is already familiar with them so that the reader must ultimately piece together a timeline of events. Specific words, phrases, and questions are also repeated frequently, generally to comic effect.” Kubrick also used repeat phrases to a certain effect. And one of the great realizations of the mirrorform and Redrum Road is how much more you can learn about the story’s composition and subtext by taking the film’s timeline out of order.

As to the meaning of Catch-22—a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule—or a simply absurd no-win situation—it’s not hard to see how Kubrick connected this to his vision of The Shining. The Torrances would never have gone to the Overlook if Jack’s hubris and capitalism hadn’t driven them there, etc. etc.

There’s also the comment made that Heller was combining Shakespeare and slapstick, Kafka and Bilko, Dostoevsky and Tom and Jerry (Tom and Jerry appear on Wendy’s mug!). Kubrick was arguably doing something similar by taking on a project like this, and executing it the way he did, mashing up Julius Caesar and Snow White, Colville and the Group of Seven, Kit Carson and Johnny Carson.

Next literary reference: Catcher in the Rye