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Joseph Heller, �Picture This�

Started November 28 � Finished December 7, 2002; 352 pages. Posted 10 December 2002

It seems like I�m always rooting for Joseph Heller. I really want to like his books, because I thought Catch-22 was fan-fucking-tastic.

So I picked up everything else he ever wrote. And I slog through other works — Good as Gold, Something Happened, We Bombed in New Haven, Closing Time and now Picture This, every time finding little gems that start to edge toward the zany wacky absurdities that made Catch-22 so great. I start cheering for some of that magic again, seeing the moments of brilliance just before it dissipates. I can�t tell you how frustrating this is.

No wait. I can. It�s fucking frustrating.

Really though, these great moments usually come in side tangents that don�t have anything to do with the story at all, but Heller put them in because they�re funny. I just can�t figure out why he couldn�t keep this humor for the rest of the story line in these other works. Is it because he had the experiences in the military that led up to the writing of Catch-22, much like Vonnegut�s Slaughterhouse Five? Only know, he doesn�t have a subject personal enough to write about?

This is certainly the most fanciful tale he�s tackled that I�ve read, but it�s covering an area fairly unknown to me, so maybe I just didn�t get it. The plot line, such as it is, involves Rembrandt painting Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer, which causes Aristotle�s consciousness to awaken, but he�s trapped inside the painting.

It�s a neat concept, even though I don�t know squat about Aristotle. Or Rembrandt, for that matter. I�m okay with Homer.

Anyhoo, the story meanders all over the place, mostly to put in these little bits of unrelated jokes I mentioned earlier, the most memorable being Socrates wife being pissed off about not being able to get her husband to do any household chores. �See what you have to go through to get him to take out the garbage,� she complains. �Because after all, — �what is garbage?� �

I thought that was pretty funny, but then again, maybe it�s just that I get the joke. This really seems like it would be a book for philosophy students, but I just can�t recommend it. I wish that I could.

I have two books left by Heller to go through, and I�m still hoping one of them will rise up to Catch-22 level.

Rating: Flea market prices.

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