G?!d Knows

By Joseph Heller

I read this book for a book club in the hopes that it would be better than Catch-22, which was so bad that I started and didn’t finish it last year. Had I not been expected to be able to speak about this book amongst a group of peers, I probably wouldn’t have finished it either. Heller is crass, sexist, and homophobic for no discernible reason. He gives grating, repulsive voices to Biblical characters without any apparent textual support for his characterizations. He constantly slips in famous lines from other books and poems in an attempt to make his main character, David, look like an incredible writer, but he succeeds in communicating only that he himself could come up with nothing originally beautiful to write for David’s voice. His narrator (and a few other characters, seemingly at random) is both within time, actively perishing on his deathbed, and outside of time, seeing all of the future and all of the past, and weaving idiosyncratic commentary throughout his narration, like calling for the use of inventions (the telephone, the telegram, etc.) that will not be invented for thousands of years. All that modernity shoved into antiquity, combined with a non-chronological storytelling mode that smacks of the chaos of Catch-22 without the grounding in the insanity of war that Catch-22 wallows in, add up to make a book that is not enjoyable to read, nor thought provoking or beautiful enough to read through one’s discomfort and boredom. I think this is the last Heller novel I will consume.