It's the same as with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: at some point the joke grows old.
I think everyone knows what the guy was after, what he was trying to say. But he could have said it all in less than 100 pages, and save us the excess hours to something more fruitful and enjoyable.
That way the story would have been far more effective, and something you might actually want to came back to from time to time. For there truly are some wonderful passages and I believe, if you are honest with yourself, you should be able to relate just fine with many of the characters depicted. In fact, put together they form a pretty good composite of who we are.
I fully share Heller's notion that "Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them." I just can't tell into which criteria Heller himself would fall.
I looked into Heller's background after I had been reading Catch-22 for a little while. I just can't take people seriously if they are talking about stuff that they know nothing about. That is waste of time. Though I had a pretty good hunch that he was no stranger in matters of war, it was pretty reassuring to learn that Heller had actually flown a bomber - even when those 60 missions were "largely milk runs". It's hardly autobiographical, but a lot of the stuff in the book probably happened - one way or the other.
Heller is playing it safe and possible covering his own tracks. I can certainly understand why. You don't want to announce the whole world that you for example had sex with prostitutes (even if everybody else did too) which you might have paid for by giving food or other gifts (which would've been essentially free to you personally) or by just agreeing to help them out from time to time (even if you never did). I'm not saying Heller did any of this, I'm merely stating the obvious: that soldiers and young ladies have always found a common tune at times of war. So, let's not pretend something like that never happened, OK?
But it didn't all happen, and certainly not in one place. If the situation during warfare really were that much out-of-control, that particular squadron (and the whole army for that matter) would be wiped out in no time.
Painting something as disgusting as war as wholly absurd and inconsequential, in the end does more harm than good. Thanks to war movies particularly, a lot of young males actually have this image implanted in their brain that apart from killing people (and well, you get used to that), the war is actually pretty cool: you get to do dope, you get to get laid, you get to have free food, free beer and all sorts of entertainment - it's just like going on a vacation except they actually pay you to go. PARTIEE!!!
And a lot of crazy stuff that people insist that happened during times of war, most likely never did, and when they did, you'd really have to write them off as "just" isolated incidents because that is what they (almost) always are. Certainly there are more wackos present in any standing army because wackos generally like hurting people, or at least don't much mind if they do.
I'm sorry y'all hippies, I know you'd like nothing better than to hear just how f*cked up waging a war always is, but it has never been even remotely as absurd as in Heller's make-believe. War might be hell, but as a rule it's very well organized hell.
Frankly, I would prefer hearing Heller's own accounts about what really went down during his leg in WW2. I'm sure some of it must have seemed like pretty crazy shit. And if it's more or less fantastical as it is, then why turn it into a total farce and work of fiction? Because it would work better? Gimme a break! When it comes to war I've found it far more effective to just tell the truth. Then people go mental. Then official inquiries will be made. Then heads will fall. Then changes will take place.
Now just about the only thing we get is an occasional hearty laugh and a lot of yawning (and page skipping no doubt).
Heller, you damn fool, see what you did?
PS. I haven't yet finished the book, and if by some miracle I can muster the will power to do so and also will find the book more worthwhile than what is previously stated here, I shall leave a very short comment after the beep.