1979 Joseph Heller novel that satirized Washington D.C., much as Catch-22 did for World War II.

It was his third book and a return to a lighter, humorous writing style, following the relatively tepid reception for the more obscure tone of Something Happened. I don't know if Heller felt pressured to return to his old style -- much the way progressive rock bands pander to fans of the "old stuff" -- or whether Something Happened was a one-time experiment that had run its course. Either way, Good As Gold was a very easy read, even more so than Catch-22.

The narrative traces English professor Bruce Gold's journey into Washington after he stumbles into a State Department job. The D.C. lifestyle is just as twisted and absurdist as the military in Catch-22, but without the spectre of death that made the latter so much more powerful. Gold's Jewish family plays a big role in the book, offering as much satirical material as Washington does.

Not a bad book, but it's hard for the narrative to escape the shadow of Catch-22, especially with so much less at stake in this storyline. And there's no way it can pack the punch of the World War II experience that fueled Catch-22. Still, I got wrapped up in it more than I knew -- there's a section near the end that made me realize I really did give a damn about what happened to Gold and his family.

Updated/fleshed out on 7/24/01

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