Joseph Heller first published his American classic, Catch-22, 50 years ago this October. Set off the coast of Italy during the Second World War, Catch-22 tells the story of an American bomber named Yossarian coming to grips with the realities and absurdities of war.
More than ten million copies have sold since its first publication but it didn't win a single literary prize at publication. Still, a number of people fell for it — hard — according to Heller's friend, writer Christopher Buckley.
Buckley has written a new introduction in the 50th anniversary edition of the novel. In it, he writes TV newsman John Chancellor even went so far as to print up "YOSSARIAN LIVES" bumper stickers.
NPR's Neal Conan talks with Christopher Buckley about the novel's appeal and the lessons readers can still learn from Catch-22.