cover image Closing Time: The Sequel to Catch-22, a Novel by

Closing Time: The Sequel to Catch-22, a Novel by

Joseph L. Heller / Author Simon & Schuster $24 (464p) ISBN 978

Worked on for many years and long anticipated (and perhaps dreaded) by admirers of the incomparable original, Heller's ``sequel'' shares with his great WWII saga a surreal sense of the absurd and of the fatuity of most human institutions. But it is hard to avoid a sense of keen disappointment, nonetheless. The satirizing of American contemporary life has been done so frequently-and often successfully-since the 1961 Catch-22, which helped make so much of that satirizing possible, that Heller is in effect competing with himself, and failing. Here again are John Yossarian, Milo Minderbinder, Sammy Singer, Chaplain Albert Tappman, and the giant Lew. Newcomers include Washington finagler G. Noodles Cook and the mysterious and ubiquitous know-it-all Jerry Gaffney. The wartime buddies are old men now, worried about their health, their sex lives and their children, but they find 1990s civilian life as corruptly absurd as the old Air Force days. There are flashbacks to the war, some of which recall the power of Heller's original inspiration; there are nostalgic passages about Coney Island, long Jewish dialogues that could have been penned by a whacked-out Neil Simon, bravura passages (notably, a magnificent wedding reception held at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal) and hare-brained Pentagon meetings to discuss the new Shhhh super-quiet warplane. There are patches of vaudeville, dreamscapes, far too much sophomoric doodling, and longueurs when Heller seems simply to be filling pages. In the end, despite flashes of the old wit and fire, this is a tired, dispirited and dispiriting novel. 200,000 first printing; first serial to Playboy. (Oct.)