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The Catch-22 of Pizza

One of the conundrums in Catch-22 is how Milo Minderbinder manages to buy eggs for seven cents, sell them to the mess halls for five cents, and still make a profit.

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Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is arguably one of the classic books of the twentieth century (sad to relate, the film was rubbish). Catch-22 is a satirical novel set in WWII that follows the lives of antihero Captain John Yossarian — a bombardier in the fictional 256th US Army Air Squadron — and his companions, who are based on the island of Pianosa, in the Mediterranean Sea, west of Italy. As the Wikipedia says about this tome: “It uses a distinctive non-chronological third-person omniscient narration, describing events from the points of view of different characters. The separate storylines are out of sequence, so the timeline develops along with the plot.”
Trying to understand the way the world works is a bit like fighting your way through a maze (Click image to see a larger version — Image source: pixabay.com)
The Wikipedia also says, “Many events in the book are repeatedly described from differing points of view, so the reader learns more about each event from each iteration, with the new information often completing a joke, the setup of which was told several chapters previously. The narrative’s events are out of sequence, but events are referred to as if the reader is already familiar with them so that the reader must ultimately piece together a timeline of events. Specific words, phrases, and questions are also repeated frequently, generally to comic effect.” That’s a much posher way to describe it than I could have come up with. The way I explain this book to people is that it talks about things in such a way that you think you are supposed to know things, so you keep on going back looking for them, but they aren’t there. This happens a lot during the first two thirds of the book. It’s only in the last third that things start to be explained, and you say “Ah, now I understand!” to yourself. One of the conundrums in Catch-22 is how the squadron’s Mess Office, Milo Minderbinder, manages to buy eggs for seven cents, sell them to the mess halls for five cents, and still make a profit. Although the situations are in no way analogous, the reason I mention this here is that my chum, Charles Pfeil, just sent me a link to a column that explains how A Pizzeria Owner Made Money Buying His Own $24 Pizzas from DoorDash for $16. All I can say after cogitating over this convoluted column is that Milo Minderbinder would be proud!

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I started to read Catch-22 once but never finished it…

Last night, I happened to read the original article cited by the one you linked to. It sounds as if DoorDash and GrubHub are operating off unsustainable (and sometimes shady) business models.


I’ll put this on my list to look for when the local used bookstore re-opens…

If you like this kind of thing, you should try watching “The Saragossa Manuscript”. I was cajoled into watching it by a friend who thought it was great. It has the same out-of-sequence effects. I finally understood it the third or fourth time through after realizing that it was a multi-level set of nesting subroutines.

Aubrey Kagan

I tend to like books with a linear story, so although I appreciated and enjoyed Catch22 I didn’t understand half of what was going on. After the third read it made a lot more sense And I concur with you that it is one of the greatest books of the 20th Century. And yes, the film was absolutely rubbish.
In my memory the book had said that Major Major Major Major had been promoted by a computer with a sense of humour and I recently decided that it was an anachronism since there were no computers in general use during WW2, but I checked it up now (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_Major_Major_Major) and the wording actually works “ “an IBM machine with a sense of humor” since there were plenty IBMHollerinth machines…

I think it’s time for a 4th read.

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