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Monday, June 10, 2013

'Snowden's Secret'

I don't know how popular Joseph Heller's Catch-22 is these days.   I'm sure it's still considered a '60s classic, a dark humor/antiwar masterpiece, and it's title has entered the vernacular.  Is it still must-reading for younger people?  No idea.  But it was always one of my favorite books, read and re-read, which is one reason, back in the early 1970s, Joe Heller gave to me his first interview in years, as he struggled to complete his second (and also excellent, before his decline) novel, Something Happened.  We became friends and he also gave to me, for Crawdaddy, an exclusive excerpt form that novel--and a lengthy scene cut out of his play based on Catch-22.

Anyway: I am reminded today of the key, haunting, recurring in the scene in Catch-22 involving Yossarian and another young man named Snowden, that takes place in the back of their World War II bomber after it's been hit by flak over Italy, I believe.   For hundreds of pages in the novel Yossarian can't understand why Snowden can't feel any better--after he treats his thigh wound--and keeps clutching his stomach under his flak jacket and complaining that he is "cold."  Yossarian keeps assuring him he'll be fine.  Finally, Yossarian unzips his jacket--and Snowden's guts are fully exposed.  "Ripeness is all," is the memorable line that follows.  A couple of excerpts:
There were too many dangers for Yossarian to keep track of. There were bartenders, bricklayers and bus conductors all over the world who wanted him dead, landlords and tenants, traitors and patriots, lynchers, leeches and lackeys, and they were all out to bump him off. That was the secret Snowden had spilled to him on the mission to Avignon-they were out to get him; and Snowden had spilled it all over the back of the plane.
And from the end of the novel:
Yossarian waved goodbye fondly to his new pals and sauntered out onto the balcony corridor, almost bursting into song the instant he was alone. He was home free; he had pulled it off; his act of rebellion had succeeded;he was safe, and he had nothing to be ashamed of to anyone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope your son turns out to have better ethics and values than did re Snowden/bombardier.
- News Nag