I spotted a small item in the October 24, 2011, issue of The New Yorker entitled, “Thalia Book Club.” It was about a panel discussion taking place at the wonderful Symphony Space on the Upper West Side of Manhattan focus on Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. The novel was first published fifty years ago this year.
Lesley Stahl was the moderator of the panel that included Robert Gottlieb, who edited the novel; writer Christopher Buckley; Mike Nichols, the director of the 1970 film based on the book; and the actor Scott Shepherd who read an excerpt for the book.
I knew Heller (very slightly) as we use to work out at the same West Side YMCA back in the Seventies. And I was also close friends of a close friend of his when I lived on the island of Menorca. My friend, who was a writer, would tell me great stories about Heller.
But spotting this panel announcement what I recalled immediately was seeing the thick paperback edition of this book in the fall of 1962 when I was one of some 300 PCVs on our flight to Ethiopia. It seemed that on that TWA plane across the Atlantic half of the Volunteers were reading Catch-22. (And if they weren’t reading Heller, they were into one of Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet novels).
So that got me thinking: what were you reading when you arrived in-country? Now I have asked this question several years ago on my blogs, but I’d like to see if we can get an update from new RPCVs. Share with us the names of the books you were reading and remember from that trip overseas to start your Peace Corps Training. Thanks.