Closing Time

Joseph Heller

Cover of Closing Time

Rank: B+
No. Times Read: 1
Last Read: Spring, 2000

Author Name: Joseph Heller

Review: Closing Time is the “long awaited” sequel to Joseph Heller’s masterpiece Catch-22. Why do I put “long awaited” in scare quotes? Because no one wants to see a sequel written to one of the best books ever written! It’s destined to be a miserable failure! And yet, there it was, some fifty years later, and now we have to deal with it.

First, let me assure the reader that this is Joseph Heller. Closing Time is very enjoyable. It’s fast, it’s funny, and it’s topical. The general idea is the characters from Catch-22 who survived the war are now living in and around New York City in the 90s. They’re all old men (like Heller himself was, at the time), and are struggling to deal with the same bureaucratic nightmare. The circular logic that loomed over WWII in Catch-22 has now found its way back to the States, and goes all the way to the top. Yossarian is back, and trying to extricate himself from the mess created by the executive branch which could lead to the total destruction of the world. But, never fear: in the end, Yossarian lives on.

While I’m sure no one really wanted to see a sequel to Catch-22, for fear that its very existence would tarnish the perfection of the original, Closing Time really isn’t half bad. Heller’s writing is always entertaining, and the various happenings are interesting. However, the book is terribly sad. Why? Because it’s essentially about old men coming to terms with their aging and their own mortality. This is what Heller himself was going through at the time, and I’m sure his lack of notoriety didn’t help. The man was a comic genius that was totally ignored for most of his life. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to read his last novel, A Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man, which is about an author trying to write his last book, and failing. Heller’s melancholy (heh, heh… I almost wrote “mellerncholy”) kind of oozes out of the humor in this book, and it all gets one to thinking about one’s own mortality, which is never fun.

If you’re a Joseph Heller fan, this book is a must. If you’re a big fan of Catch-22, this book is a must. If you’re a casual fan of Catch-22, you may want to consider not reading this book. After all, the ending of Catch-22 really is perfect. That’s really where I’d like the story to end. Man, I want to read that book again… Not this one, though. Maybe one day…when I’m old… For now, I’m enjoying being young.

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