Yossarian Part Two
This is part two of a homage to Catch 22. Parts one, three, four, five, six, and seven are also available.
VII McWatt The first thunderstorm after the heat wave was falling. The first impulse was to hang out on the front porch, smell the sweet rain air, feel the cool enveloping the scorched earth like, well something. PG likes to write, he feels good about himself when he does, but sometimes wonders if he is any good. Evidently, once Catch 22 was anointed the great american novel, humility was not an issue for Joseph Heller. It also took him thirteen years to write another book. By this time he was a star on the college lecture circuit, and it is well known that an author can make more money giving lectures than he can writing.
This chapter is named McWatt, who is the pilot on the plane that Yossarian rides. Like all the other characters, he is a character. Still he does not contribute much action here. The chapter is more about Milo Minderbinder. He is the mess hall director, having gotten the job when Corporal Snark put soap in the mashed potatoes.
PG’s dad was from a farm in North Carolina. One time, an Indian girl working for the family confused sugar with the detergent used to clean the milking machine. It cleaned everyone out, except for those who don’t put sugar in coffee.
In addition to his other quirks, PG drinks coffee the way it comes out of the pot, without any adulteration. He came to coffee at the age of 30, after he had discovered the joys of unsweetened iced tea. Maybe that could be the subject for a digression, or maybe not. So, when PG started with coffee, he did not put sugar in everything, and powdered dairy substitute food product was just as gross as curdled milk. When you learn to consume without adulteration… which, in the case of milk and sugaring to death a fine cup of coffee, should more properly be called childification…it is a tough habit to break.
Getting back to Milo Minderbinder, he is described in the book as a rather nerdy looking man, with a prominent mustache that does nothing for his beauty. In the movie, Milo Minderbinder was played by Jon Voight, a superstar. He hit the big time in “Midnight Cowboy”, and was the prettified dreamboy of hollywood. He did not have an unfortunate mustache. Daughter Angelina Jolie was not born until 1975, which may be a factor in his good looks during the movie. Mr. Voight is currently a right wing wackadoodle. He likes to whine that liberals get all the good parts, and ignores the obvious fact that few parts are available for men over the age of seventy.
There is an onine source of information, SparkNotes, being utilized in this presentation. They say this chapter is a satire on capitalism. There is a sentence or two after that, and a link to read more. You have to pay to read more.
While editing this chapter, PG went to the Joseph Heller wikipedia entry. The question was, how long did it take Mr. Heller to produce a second novel. While looking this up. PG saw that Mr. Heller wrote the script for an episode of “McHale’s Navy”. Ernest Borgnine, who played McHale, died this afternoon.
VIII Lieutenant Scheisskopf Just the title will be good for a couple of paragraphs here. PG is not a military type, and words like Lieutenant have always been tough to spell. If you take a look, it breaks down into Lie U Tenant. Some big tough long words are pretty easy if you break them down like that. Take the fashion icon making noise in Iran. Mah Moud Ah Ma Dine Jad.
Or the county just east of DeKalb. Once PG had a lot of jobs to run for this county, with a very slow computer that did not like to scroll. He needed to learn how to spell Gwinnett. The key to this spelling is to remember there are two n’s and two t’s in Gwinnett. Two n’s, two t’s, and two hundred thousand undocumented people.
Getting back to the name of chapter eight, Lieutenant needs a name to the right, or it is just a title without a name. (We will get to Major Major later.) The name to claim this title is special. As wikipedia puts it: “Scheisskopf” literally translated means “shithead” in German, though such an insult is not common in that language. “ On one of the talking head discussions celebrated on the 50th anniversary of Catch 22, someone said that there was one other naughty name that Mr. Heller slipped into his book. the spell check suggestion for Schiesskopf is Schwarzkopf.
The story to this chapter takes place in a training camp in California. Lt. Schiesskopf is in some sort of command there. One exception to this is his wife, who is fucking Yossarian. The Lt. is interested in having neat parades with his men, and is not interested in the parade through his bedroom.
At some point the Lt. gets mad at Clevinger, and has a sort of court martial for him. It is one of the parts of the book where the satire gets a bit tiresome. The man is on trial on obviously phony charges, but whenever he says anything in his defense, he gets in more trouble. Yes, this is a satire, we get that. Parts like the monkey trial of Clevinger are the parts of this book where you have to soldier on, and hope that it gets better. The spell check suggestion for Clevinger is Clinger.
You have to read the book before you can write your criticism of it. This is a guiding principle of the critic craft, and is as often as not disregarded. The way PG sees it, if Yossarian can fly missions, and almost die, then the least PG can do is read a few boring pages of a heavy handed satire. It is only fair. The fact that Yossarian is a fictional character does not change the fact that the war was real.
IX Major Major Major Major In June of 1968, Robert Kennedy was killed by a man named Sirhan Sirhan. This was sort of a novelty, to have the same first and last name. There have since been conspiracy theories about this affair, which is strange because the shooting was in a crowded kitchen, with dozens of witnesses. The good news is that the concept of using the same handle for a first and last name never did catch on.
This chapter is about Major 4x. The first and middle names were given to him by his father, who had a sick sense of humor. This triple naming literally killed his mother, Pectoralis. When Mr. MMM was inducted into the army, an IBM machine mistakenly added the rank of major to his act. This was both a blessing and a curse.
Note the phrasing of the last sentence. Computers, as we know them today, were the result of theories spawned by Alan Turing. During WW2, he was busy cracking the German code. The marvel machines were invented later, Now, in describing this chapter, bookrags says “In the military, a computer error promotes Major Major to the rank of Major”. SparkNotes calls it “an IBM computer error” , which is marginally more accurate. The truth is, both the US and Germany used IBM machines during the war.
As it turns out, chapter IX is another example of heavy handed satire. Major Major starts to sign documents “Washington Irving”, which attracts the attention of the army smart people. There is a meeting about the matter, where they go back and forth and accomplish nothing. The temptation to skip over a few pages is strong during moments like this.
X Wintergreen This is not named for a bathroom air freshening spray, or a type of chewing gum. PFC Wintergreen is a person. He loses messages that he does not like, and thus has a lot of influence. He gets in trouble, and his punishment is to dig holes and fill them in.
The name Wintergreen may have been the name of a product. PG had a stupidvisor at redo blue, who was euphemistically known as wild man. The stupidvisor liked to discuss his oral activities with the wife. One day, wild man told PG that his wife used a mint flavored douche.
There is going to be a raid soon, on Bologna. The men are afraid. The men are not allowed to get sick, because that would keep them out of the raid. There is a sign on the medical tent: CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, DEATH IN THE FAMILY.
The movie of Catch 22 was a big deal. It was supposed to be a big hit, but it wasn’t. Theaters who showed it had to agree to play it for a long run, at great expense, and they lost money. In Atlanta, it played at a musty old theater on Peachtree at 13th Street. The lobby smelled of popcorn, which kept getting funkier and funkier. The lighting in the lobby had a yellow glow, as if years of cigarette smoke had accumulated on the lampshades. This was the movie house Margaret Mitchell was going to go to when she was run over by a taxi.
The movie house was eventually taken over by a theater group, which was very good at making deals. When the movie house was torn down, to make way for a high rise, the developer had to build a state of the art performance house. The overhead of the new facility drove the theater group into bankruptcy.
XI Captain Black Not much happens in this mercifully short chapter. Some officer goes on a binge of requiring loyalty oaths. It goes on until an officer who outranks him puts a stop to it.
The concept of the Catch 22 is ancient. The one that PG has noticed lately is the catch 22 of racism. It seems like the only people who are qualified to judge whether or not something is or is not racist is a person of color, or POC. This is everyone except white people. One “faq” about racism even called white people PWOC, or people without color. Since red is a color, this must leave out rednecks.
So a PWOC is not only automatically guilty of racism, he does not have the right to protest his innocence. He is guilty by birth. And since only a POC is qualified to determine what is racism, the PWOC is screwed.
When the book was written, the catch was numbered 18. A famous author had a book coming out with 18 in the title. The smart publishing people decided that two books with number 18 would confuse the book buying public. A search was held to determine what was a funny number to use, and it was determined that 22 was a funny number.
One of the sources used to prepare this document is CliffNotes. The style of writing in Cliff Notes is familiar to English teachers everywhere. Here is the history of this institution.
Clifton Keith Hillegass, the founder of CliffsNotes, was born in Rising City, Nebraska, on April 18, 1918. After graduating from college, he worked as a college bookstore representative for Long’s College Bookstore (now the Nebraska Book Company).
One of the contacts Cliff developed while at Long’s was Jack Cole, owner of Coles, The Book People. Cole’s business produced study guides called Cole’s Notes, published in Canada. Cole suggested to Cliff that American students would welcome a U.S. version of the notes. With that idea, Cliff launched CliffsNotes in August 1958, with a line of 16 Shakespeare study guides. Working out of Lincoln, Nebraska, Cliff built the company that produced study guides destined to become a multi-generational icon. In 1998, Cliff sold CliffsNotes, Inc., and the brand lives on today as part of John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and its stable of educational and reference books. On May 5, 2001, Mr. Hillegass passed away at the age of 83.
XII Bologna Balogna is a city in northern Italy. It is pronounced baLONEah. There is a popular meat product called balogna, and sometimes spelled baloney. This is how it is pronounced. Baloney is a mystery meat, made up of whatever was leftover in the butcher factory. Bologna food product is named for Balogna the town.
There is supposed to be a bombing run on Balogna. The ground troops cannot get the Germans out, and the bombers are supposed to make this happen. The men know it is heavily defended, and that this will be a very dangerous mission.
Clevinger was reported as being killed a couple of chapters ago. He turns up in this chapter, lecturing Yossarian on his duty to die for his country. This goal is almost achieved when Chief White Halfoat takes the men on a drunken jeep ride, with the headlights turned off.
There are three usable quotes from this chapter. In the best english test tradition, we will offer a commentary on these quotes. Or maybe we won’t, if there is nothing good to say about them.
“Open your eyes, Clevinger. It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who’s dead.” In a previous chapter, that was named for him, Clevinger was said to be intelligent, but have no sense. Or something like that. It is getting late, and it is too much trouble to find the exact quote. There are people like that in the world, and probably in other dimensions. Another take is the person who was educated beyond his ability to use the knowledge that was thrust upon him.
Clevinger believes that it is the soldiers duty to die for his country. Even General Patton disagrees. You don’t win wars by dying for your country, you win them by making the other guy die for his country. Clevinger is alive on one page, dead on another, and back alive later. It can be confusing.
“The enemy,” retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, “is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart. And don’t you forget that, because the longer you remember it, the longer you might live.” Like General Patton said, they’ll lose their fear of the Germans. I just hope they never lose their fear of me.
Yossarian sidled up drunkenly to Colonel Korn at the officers’ club one night to kid with him about the new Lepage gun that the Germans had moved in. “What Lepage gun?” Colonel Korn inquired with curiosity. “The new three hundred and forty four millimeter Lepage glue gun,” Yossarian answered. “It glues a whole formation of planes together in mid-air.”
The idea of gluing a formation of planes together in midair is silly. This is something out of a monty python routine. But innovation … and twenty million dead Soviets … is what won the war for the allies.
This is the end of part two of this series. Part one is previously published. Pictures are from The Library of Congress.