digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:

Agriculture

Applied sciences

Arts

Belief

Business

Chronology

Culture

Education

Environment

Geography

Health

History

Humanities

Language

Law

Life

Mathematics

Nature

People

Politics

Science

Society

Technology

For other people with similar names, see Joseph Heller (disambiguation).
Joseph Heller
Joseph heller 1986.jpg
Heller at the Miami Book Fair International of 1990
Born (1923-05-01)May 1, 1923[1]
Brooklyn, New York[1]
Died December 12, 1999(1999-12-12) (aged 76)[1]
East Hampton, New York[2]
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, playwright, movie script writer[3]
Ethnicity Jewish American
Genre Satire, black comedy
Notable works Catch-22,
Something Happened
Spouse Shirley Held (1945–84; divorced; 2 children)
Valerie Humphries (1987–99; his death)

Signature

Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999) was an American satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. The title of one of his works, Catch-22, entered the English lexicon to refer to a vicious circle wherein an absurd, no-win choice, particularly in situations in which the desired outcome of the choice is an impossibility, and regardless of choice, a same negative outcome is a certainty. Although he is remembered primarily for Catch-22, his other works center on the lives of various members of the middle class and remain examples of modern satire.

Early years[edit]

Joseph Heller was born in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, the son of poor Jewish parents, Lena and Isaac Donald Heller,[4] from Russia.[5] Even as a child, he loved to write; as a teenager, he wrote a story about the Russian invasion of Finland and sent it to the New York Daily News, which rejected it.[6] At least one scholar suggests that he knew that he wanted to become a writer, after recalling that he received a children's version of the Iliad when he was ten.[citation needed] After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1941,[7][8] Heller spent the next year working as a blacksmith's apprentice,[9] a messenger boy, and a filing clerk.[5] In 1942, at age 19, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. Two years later he was sent to the Italian Front, where he flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier.[9] His Unit was the 488th Bombardment Squadron, 340th Bomb Group, 12th Air Force. Heller later remembered the war as "fun in the beginning ... You got the feeling that there was something glorious about it."[10] On his return home he "felt like a hero ... People think it quite remarkable that I was in combat in an airplane and I flew sixty missions even though I tell them that the missions were largely milk runs."[10] ("Milk runs" were combat missions, but mostly uneventful due to a lack of intense opposition from enemy anti-aircraft artillery or fighters.)

After the war, Heller studied English at the University of Southern California and NYU on the G.I. Bill.[11] In 1949, he received his M.A. in English from Columbia University.[12] Following his graduation, he spent a year as a Fulbright scholar at St Catherine's College, Oxford (1949–50),[13] and, after returning home, he taught composition at Pennsylvania State University for two years (1950–52). [14] He also taught fiction and dramatic writing at Yale.[15] He then briefly worked for Time Inc.,[11] before taking a job as a copywriter at a small advertising agency,[9][16] where he worked alongside future novelist Mary Higgins Clark.[17] At home, Heller wrote. He was first published in 1948, when The Atlantic ran one of his short stories. The story nearly won the "Atlantic First".[6]

He was married to Shirley Held from 1945 to 1981 and they had two children, Erica (born 1952) and Ted (born 1956).

Career[edit]

Catch-22[edit]

While sitting at home one morning in 1953, Heller thought of the lines, "It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, [Yossarian] fell madly in love with him."[6] Within the next day, he began to envision the story that could result from this beginning, and invented the characters, the plot, and the tone that the story would eventually take. Within a week, he had finished the first chapter and sent it to his agent. He did not do any more writing for the next year, as he planned the rest of the story.[6] The initial chapter was published in 1955 as "Catch-18", in Issue 7 of New World Writing.[18]

Although he originally did not intend the story to be longer than a novelette, Heller was able to add enough substance to the plot that he felt it could become his first novel. When he was one-third done with the work, his agent, Candida Donadio, sent it to publishers. Heller was not particularly attached to the work, and decided that he would not finish it if publishers were not interested.[6] The work was soon purchased by Simon and Schuster, who gave him US $750 and promised him an additional $750 when the full manuscript was delivered.[18] Heller missed his deadline by four to five years,[18] but, after eight years of thought, delivered the novel to his publisher.[9]

The finished novel describes the wartime experiences of Army Air Corps Captain John Yossarian. Yossarian devises multiple strategies to avoid combat missions, but the military bureaucracy is always able to find a way to make him stay.[19] As Heller observed, "Everyone in my book accuses everyone else of being crazy. Frankly, I think the whole society is nuts – and the question is: What does a sane man do in an insane society?"[9] Heller has also commented that "peace on earth would mean the end of civilization as we know it."

Just before publication, the novel's title was changed to Catch-22 to avoid confusion with Leon Uris' new novel, Mila 18.[18] The novel was published in hardback in 1961 to mixed reviews, with the Chicago Sun-Times calling it "the best American novel in years",[11] while other critics derided it as "disorganized, unreadable, and crass".[20] It sold only 30,000 copies in the United States hardback in its first year of publication. Reaction was very different in the UK, where, within one week of its publication, the novel was number one on the bestseller lists.[18] Once it was released in paperback in October 1962, however, Catch-22 caught the imaginations of many baby boomers, who identified with the novel's anti-war sentiments.[19] The book went on to sell 10 million copies in the United States. The novel's title became a buzzword for a dilemma with no easy way out. Now considered a classic, the book was listed at number 7 on Modern Library's list of the top 100 novels of the century.[9] The United States Air Force Academy uses the novel to "help prospective officers recognize the dehumanizing aspects of bureaucracy."[11][dead link]

The movie rights to the novel were purchased in 1962, and, combined with his royalties, made Heller a millionaire. The film, which was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Alan Arkin, Jon Voight and Orson Welles, was not released until 1970.[5]

Other works[edit]

Shortly after Catch-22 was published, Heller thought of an idea for his next novel, which would become Something Happened, but did not act on it for two years. In the meantime he focused on scripts, completing the final screenplay for the movie adaptation of Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl, as well as a television comedy script that eventually aired as part of "McHale's Navy". He also completed a play in only six weeks, but spent a great deal of time working with the producers as it was brought to the stage.[6]

In 1969, Heller wrote a play called We Bombed in New Haven. It delivered an anti-war message while discussing the Vietnam War. It was originally produced by the Repertory Company of the Yale Drama School, with Stacy Keach in the starring role. After a slight revision, it was published by Alfred A. Knopf and then debuted on Broadway, starring Jason Robards.[21]

Heller's follow-up novel, Something Happened, was finally published in 1974. Critics were enthusiastic about the book, and both its hardcover and paperback editions reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list.[5] Heller wrote another five novels, each of which took him several years to complete.[19] One of them, Closing Time, revisited many of the characters from Catch-22 as they adjusted to post-war New York.[19][22] All of the novels sold respectably well, but could not duplicate the success of his debut.[5] Told by an interviewer that he had never produced anything else as good as Catch-22, Heller famously responded, "Who has?"[2]

Work process[edit]

Heller did not begin work on a story until he had envisioned both a first and last line. The first sentence usually appeared to him "independent of any conscious preparation."[6] In most cases, the sentence did not inspire a second sentence. At times, he would be able to write several pages before giving up on that hook. Usually, within an hour or so of receiving his inspiration, Heller would have mapped out a basic plot and characters for the story. When he was ready to begin writing, he focused on one paragraph at a time, until he had three or four handwritten pages, which he then spent several hours reworking.[6]

Heller maintained that he did not "have a philosophy of life, or a need to organize its progression. My books are not constructed to 'say anything.'"[6] Only when he was almost one-third finished with the novel would he gain a clear vision of what it should be about. At that point, with the idea solidified, he would rewrite all that he had finished and then continue to the end of the story.[22] The finished version of the novel would often not begin or end with the sentences he had originally envisioned, although he usually tried to include the original opening sentence somewhere in the text.[6]

Later teaching career[edit]

In the 1970s Heller taught creative writing at the City College of New York.[23] After the publication of Catch-22, Heller resumed a part-time academic career as a teacher of creative writing at Yale University and at the University of Pennsylvania.[24]

Illness[edit]

On Sunday, December 13, 1981, Heller was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome, a debilitating syndrome that was to leave him temporarily paralyzed.[19] He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of Mount Sinai Medical Hospital the same day,[25] and remained there, bedridden, until his condition had improved enough to permit his transfer to the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, which occurred on January 26, 1982.[26] His illness and recovery are recounted at great length in the autobiographical No Laughing Matter,[27] which contains alternating chapters by Heller and his good friend Speed Vogel. The book reveals the assistance and companionship Heller received during this period from a number of his prominent friends—Mel Brooks, Mario Puzo, Dustin Hoffman and George Mandel among them.[11]

Heller eventually made a substantial recovery. He later married Valerie Humphries, one of the nurses who helped him become well again.

Later years[edit]

Heller returned to St. Catherine's as a visiting Fellow, for a term, in 1991 and was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the college.[13] In 1998, he released a memoir, Now and Then: From Coney Island to Here, in which he relived his childhood as the son of a deliveryman and offered some details about the inspirations for Catch-22.[11]

Heller was an agnostic.[28]

He died of a heart attack at his home in East Hampton, on Long Island, in December 1999,[2][9] shortly after the completion of his final novel, Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. On hearing of Heller's death, his friend Kurt Vonnegut said, "Oh, God, how terrible. This is a calamity for American literature."[29]

Catch-22 controversy[edit]

In April 1998, Lewis Pollock wrote to The Sunday Times for clarification as to "the amazing similarity of characters, personality traits, eccentricities, physical descriptions, personnel injuries and incidents" in Catch-22 and a novel published in England in 1951. The book that spawned the request was written by Louis Falstein and titled The Sky is a Lonely Place in Britain and Face of a Hero in the United States. Falstein's novel was available two years before Heller wrote the first chapter of Catch-22 (1953) while he was a student at Oxford. The Times stated: "Both have central characters who are using their wits to escape the aerial carnage; both are haunted by an omnipresent injured airman, invisible inside a white body cast". Stating he had never read Falstein's novel, or heard of him,[30] Heller said: "My book came out in 1961[;] I find it funny that nobody else has noticed any similarities, including Falstein himself, who died just last year".[31]

Works[edit]

Short stories[edit]

Autobiographies[edit]

Novels[edit]

Plays[edit]

  • We Bombed in New Haven (1967)
  • Catch 22 (1973)
  • Clevinger's Trial (1973)

Screenplays[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Joseph Heller". UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2003. p. 870. .
  2. ^ a b c Severo, Richard; Mitgang, Herbert (December 14, 1999). "Joseph Heller, Darkly Surreal Novelist, Dies at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  3. ^ Fine, Richard A (November 24, 2010), "Joseph Heller", Critical Survey of Long Fiction, EBSCO .
  4. ^ Loveday, Veronica (December 1, 2010), Joseph Heller, History Reference Center. EBSCO, pp. 1–2, ISBN 978-1-4298-0286-4 .
  5. ^ a b c d e Heller's father was a bakery truck driver, who died in 1927.Joseph Heller: Literary giant, BBC, December 14, 1999, retrieved 2007-08-30 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Plimpton, George (Winter 1974), "The Art of Fiction 51: Joseph Heller" (PDF), The Paris Review (60), archived from the original on 2007-06-26 
  7. ^ Hechinger, Fred M. "About education; Personal Touch Helps", The New York Times, January 1, 1980. Retrieved 2009-09-20. "Lincoln, an ordinary, unselective New York City high school, is proud of a galaxy of prominent alumni, who include the playwright Arthur Miller, Representative Elizabeth Holtzman, the authors Joseph Heller and Ken Auletta, the producer Mel Brooks, the singer Neil Diamond and the songwriter Neil Sedaka."
  8. ^ Abraham Lincoln High School, New York City Schools, archived from the original on 2006-10-05 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Heller's legacy will be 'Catch-22' ideas, CNN, December 13, 1999, retrieved 2007-08-30 
  10. ^ a b Mallory, Carole (May 1992), The Joe and Kurt Shoe, retrieved 2007-08-30 
  11. ^ a b c d e f Kisor, Henry (December 14, 1999), "Soaring satirist" (– Scholar search), Chicago Sun-Times, retrieved 2007-08-30 [dead link][dead link]
  12. ^ C250 Celebrates Columbians Ahead of Their Time: Joseph Heller, Columbia University, retrieved 2007-08-30 
  13. ^ a b Catz People[dead link]
  14. ^ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, Last Updated 5-15-2014 [1]
  15. ^ Asiado, Tel. “Joseph Heller Biography.” 1. Web. Nov 23, 2010.
  16. ^ Advertising copywriter for Time (1952–56) and Look (1956–58) magazines; promotion manager for McCall’s (1958–61): The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, Last Updated 5-15-2014[2]
  17. ^ Clark, Mary Higgins (2002), Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir, Simon and Schuster, pp. 48–49, 53 
  18. ^ a b c d e Aldridge, John W. (October 26, 1986), "The Loony Horror of it All – 'Catch-22' Turns 25", The New York Times: Section 7, Page 3, Column 1, retrieved 2007-08-30 
  19. ^ a b c d e 1999 Year in Review: Joseph Heller, CNN, December 1999, archived from the original on 2007-06-03 [dead link]
  20. ^ Shenker, Israel (September 10, 1968), "Joseph Heller Draws Dead Bead on the Politics of Gloom", The New York Times, retrieved 2007-08-30 
  21. ^ Barnes, Clive (October 17, 1968), "Theater:Heller's 'We Bombed in New Haven' Opens", The New York Times, retrieved 2007-08-30 
  22. ^ a b Koval, Ramona (1998), Joseph Heller – Closing Time, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, retrieved 2007-08-30 
  23. ^ "Joseph Heller definition of Joseph Heller in the Free Online Encyclopedia". Encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  24. ^ Muste, John M. “Joseph Heller.” Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition (2007): EBSCO. Web. Nov 8, 2010.
  25. ^ (Heller 1986, pp. 23–34)
  26. ^ (Heller 1986, pp. 170–174)
  27. ^ (Heller 1986)
  28. ^ Joseph Heller, Adam J. Sorkin (1993). Adam J. Sorkin, ed. Conversations With Joseph Heller. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 75. ISBN 9780878056354. "Mandel: You are expressing an agnostic attitude toward reality and I am glad to see you so healthy. Heller: I realize that even if I received convincing physical evidence that there is a God and a heaven and hell, it wouldn't affect me one bit. I think the experience of life is more important than the experience of eternity. Life is short. Eternity never runs out." 
  29. ^ Bailey, Blake (August 26, 2011). "The Enigma of Joseph Heller". The New York Times. 
  30. ^ [3](link broken)
  31. ^ The Washington Post, April 27, 1998

References[edit]

  • Heller, Joseph; Vogel, Speed (1986), No Laughing Matter, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, ISBN 0-399-13086-1 

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Heller — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
94455 videos foundNext > 

Joseph Heller Interview with Bill Boggs

Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 -- December 12, 1999) was an American satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. His best known work is Catch-22, a n...

The Writing of Catch-22: Joseph Heller on His Childhood and Experiences in World War II (1998)

Catch-22 is a satirical novel by the American author Joseph Heller. He began writing it in 1953, and the novel was first published in 1961. It is set during ...

Joseph Heller speaking at UCLA 4/8/1970

From the archives of the UCLA Communications Studies Department. Digitized 2013. The views and ideas expressed in these videos are not necessarily shared by ...

Joseph Heller part 1

moyers interview.

Kurt Vonnegut & Joseph Heller War Experience: Battle of the Bulge, Bombing Raids, VE Day (1995)

The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 -- 25 January 1945) was a major German offensive campaign launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of ...

Joseph Heller Interview Dorian

Interview with Joseph Heller sometime during the '90s.

Joseph Heller on Bookworm

Joseph Heller on Bookworm, from Dec 19 1994. KCRW own all the rights.

William Styron, Kurt Vonnegut & Joseph Heller: War and Racism in American Culture (1997)

William Clark Styron, Jr. (June 11, 1925 -- November 1, 2006) was an American novelist and essayist who won major literary awards for his work. For much of h...

Catch - 22 Part 1 by joseph Heller

Catch 22 By Joseph Heller Quotes Catch 22 By Joseph Heller Spark Notes Catch 22 Book Review Catch 22 Book Summary Catch 22 Book Online Catch 22 Book Download...

Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

50 years after it was first written Joseph Heller's Catch-22 is still the definitve word on the madness of war. Hilarious, unforgettable and tragic. Illustra...

94455 videos foundNext > 

213 news items

 
Variety
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 23:33:45 -0700

These scenes, which exude humanism and Joseph Heller-like satire in equal measure, were directly informed by that experience, lending seriousness to a film whose original title, “Boreg,” means “screw.” In both the literal and figurative sense, what ...

San Antonio Current

San Antonio Current
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 20:56:15 -0700

In Catch-22 (1961), Joseph Heller captured the lunacy of war in which the only way to gain release from dangerous bombing missions was to claim insanity, though anyone who requested release from dangerous bombing missions thereby proved he was ...
 
Huffington Post (blog)
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:56:15 -0700

KF: Then you would know that Joseph Heller's favorite song of all songs was "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore." Bill Clinton's favorite Kinky song was always "Waitress, Please, Waitress, Come Sit On My Facebook." I've changed it to Facebook.
 
Jerusalem Post
Mon, 25 Aug 2014 08:33:45 -0700

... seen by the administration officer reading a book in English, though he didn't notice that the paperback was Joseph Heller's anti-war novel “Catch 22” – I was sent for a weeklong stint of guard duty at the rear gate of the compound somewhere in the ...
 
The Justice
Mon, 25 Aug 2014 19:39:35 -0700

The University is well-known for its collections which include Joseph Heller's handwritten manuscript of Catch-22, actress Sophie Tucker's personal scrapbooks and a copy of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland printed by Virginia Woolf and her husband. Lenny ...

Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 02:11:15 -0700

One of the more startling cultural indicators of recent years – the bondage best-seller Fifty Shades Of Grey – has generated a steady stream of negative publicity, which has added to its success. Moralists have disapproved of how it makes soft porn ...

The Independent

The Independent
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 08:56:15 -0700

Other novels affected me later in life – Joseph Heller's Something Happened in the early years of my marriage, Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier when I started writing – but it was A Fan's Notes whose effect was most immediate. The fact that today it ...

GlobeNewswire (press release)

GlobeNewswire (press release)
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:56:15 -0700

MANCHESTER, N.H., Aug. 26, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The history of literature is full of writers who burst through the social mores of the their day—authors such as D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, James Joyce, and William S. Burroughs. In the wake of ...
Loading

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Talk About Joseph Heller

You can talk about Joseph Heller with people all over the world in our discussions.

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!