To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Joseph Heller’s groundbreaking novel Catch 22, Kevin Power wrote an interesting article for the Irish Times on the timeless effect of Hellerian humour and its widespread influence. The Simpsons are mentioned.
In retrospect, Joseph Heller appears to have schooled us in a style of humour that we now take for granted: absurdist, brash, hyperintelligent, rooted in despair.
In Heller’s hands, the conceit has a savage elegance, and the book’s tangled narrative unfurls in gorgeously modulated prose, in which even the simplest sentences end with the snap of sharp teeth.
Heller was neither the only one nor the first to use this kind of humour. The absurd goes way back. It certainly reaches a climax with him though. Why? Because he armed himself with non-sense to make sense of the most non-sensical things of all, war. And he dared to fail.
Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian’s fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.