Closing Time

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

CLOSING TIME tells two groups of stories. In one, Yossarian, Sammy Singer, and Lew Rabinowitz, all World War II veterans, reflect upon the past, the war, old age, death, and the chaotic present. The other group satirizes America’s continued obsession with war, especially the technology of weapons, the smug indifference of the rich to those unlike themselves, and the decline of New York City.

Lew, slowly dying of Hodgkin’s disease, remembers how he flaunted his Jewishness in a German prisoner of war camp and survived the Allied bombing of Dresden. Sammy longs for some purpose in his life after the death of his wife. Yossarian works for Milo Minderbinder, the manipulative entrepreneur of CATCH-22, trying to sell the government a nonfunctioning, nonexistent bomber because he has little else to interest him until his younger girlfriend becomes pregnant.

The satire centered around Milo’s bomber also includes an incompetent new president of the United States, known by all as “Little Prick,” who would rather play with video games than lead the nation. The remainder of Heller’s comic abuse comes through the multimillion-dollar wedding of Milo’s bumbling son in the Port Authority Bus Terminal with well-bred actors replacing the usual drug addicts, prostitutes, runaway teenagers, and homeless who inhabit the facility.

Heller’s anger at the decline of his beloved New York, his characters’ nostalgia for the city’s glorious past, and the satire of White House insiders are the most effective sections of CLOSING TIME. Unfortunately, the novel’s disparate parts never cohere into a whole and segments such as dead billionaires in hell seem pointless. The novel has only superficial similarities to CATCH-22 and none of its bite or originality.

Sources for Further Study

The Christian Science Monitor. October 4, 1994, p. 14.

London Review of Books. XVI, October 20, 1994, p. 22.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 16, 1994, p. 3.

The New York Review of Books. XLI, October 20, 1994, p. 20.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, September 25, 1994, p. 1.

The New Yorker. LXX, October 10, 1994, p. 104.

Newsweek. CXXIV, October 3, 1994, p. 66.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, August 1, 1994, p. 69.

Time. CXLIV, October 3, 1994, p. 80.

The Times Literary Supplement. October 21, 1994, p. 21.