It was love at first read. The first time I read it was in college. It helped me during my MBA entrance interviews as well, as it played the part of my favourite book, favourite author and also the last book I had read (it probably was). There is something about the Catch because of which I keep coming back to it. So do a lot of others it seems. It has been voted one of the best novels of all times in several surveys.
Someone once told me that one of the reasons I was not floored by "Catcher in the Rye" was probably because I did not read it at the right age. With Catch 22, I think I got it right.
What did I like about it?
The humour. Black and dry and variations of the same.
The confusing narrative, which jumped from place to place and person to person and forward and backwards in time - all in the same sentence some times.
The characters - Yossarian (the anti hero, ofcourse!), Ex-PFC Wintergreen, Milo (The capitalist) and Dunbar. in fact, all the characters were like different possible roles one acts out in real life. Many a time, I have spotted Wintergreen, Cathcart, Yossarian and Dreedle in real life.
The book is also a melting pot of so many underlying themes - the arguments of one person's welfare versus many, the sanity inside insanity, heroism and the lack of it, the absurd extremes of bureaucracy, the absurd extremes of normalcy as well, love versus lust - it never fails to excite.
Heller also made disguised references to earlier works and usually let his characters take the opposite position. For example, Yossarian is the opposite of Achilles all through the book when he always chooses his life over others. He is also the opposite of Jesus, when he choses to make a deal with the colonel.
I used to have a very worn out copy, which had survived the college hostel, numerous train rides between Delhi and Mangalore and long rainy evenings in London. I got another copy as a birthday gift a few years ago. Getting something you really like is nice. Always.
The next book which comes anywhere close is "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. But that is another post.
(Also, blogger sucks!)