Joseph Heller has always—accurately—maintained that Catch-22 was not initially a best-selling novel. It sold modestly upon its first publication in 1961 and only began to sell in earnest when it was released as a mass-market paperback. The initial critical reception to Catch-22 was muted at best and occasionally rather hostile. Often critics pointed to the unruly and confusing profusion of characters and the ragged incoherence of the plot. They said, nearly in unison at first, that the book was destined to become an amusing but ultimately forgotten monument to the literary environment of the early 1960s. The New Yorker review of Catch-22, which called it “a debris of sour jokes, stage anger, dirty words, and synthetic looniness,” is often quoted.Less
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