While initial reviews of Something Happened were mixed, more recent criticism has often deemed this novel superior to and more sophisticated than Catch Good as Gold marks Heller's first fictional use of his Jewish heritage and childhood experiences in Coney Island. In the early s Heller was stricken with a nerve disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, that left him paralyzed for several months. Though the author became too weak to move and almost too weak to breathe on his own, he eventually regained his strength and recovered from the often fatal disorder.
After completing God Knows, Heller began writing his first nonfiction book, No Laughing Matter, with Speed Vogel, a friend who helped him considerably during his illness. Heller, Joseph. Heller, Joseph, and Speed Vogel. No Laughing Matter. New York: Putnam, Ruderman, Judith. Joseph Heller. New York: Continuum, Toggle navigation. Catch Two years later Heller began working as an advertising copywriter, securing positions Joseph Heller.
Later works While Heller's place in twentieth-century letters is secured with Catch, he is also highly regarded for his other works, which present a comic vision of modern society with serious moral connections. Declining health In the early s Heller was stricken with a nerve disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, that left him paralyzed for several months.
Critical Essays Heller's Use of Satire - CATCH
For More Information Heller, Joseph. User Contributions:. Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: Name:. E-mail: Show my email publicly. Type the code shown:. Public Comment: characters. He primarily enjoyed reading adventure stories such as the Rover Boys and Tom Swift, until about the age of ten, when a cousin introduced him to a children's version of Homer's Iliad.
After reading Homer, Heller decided that he wanted to be a writer. Following graduation Heller got a job as a blacksmith's helper at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia, but he continued to pursue writing in his spare time. In October Heller enlisted in the U. Army Air Force. He was sent to armorer's school and was content there until he heard a rumor that armorers were being turned into gunners, whose wartime life expectancy was extremely short.
Accordingly, Heller volunteered for cadet school and became a wing bombardier in the Twelfth Air Force. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and stationed on the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean, from which he flew bombing missions over France and Italy. Heller experienced little anxiety until his thirty-seventh mission, when he witnessed several planes flown by his friends destroyed and the top turret gunner on his B injured by flak.
Henceforth, Heller related that he was terrified on all of his bombing runs. In June he was discharged at the rank of first lieutenant after having flown sixty missions. The following year he secured an M.
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On 3 September Heller married Shirley Held; they had two children. After returning to the United States he accepted a position as an instructor of freshman English composition at Pennsylvania State University. For the remainder of the decade Heller left academia and worked in the magazine business, serving as an advertising writer for Time and Look and a promotion manager at McCall's. Meanwhile, Heller continued to pursue his passion for writing, publishing short stories in Esquire, Atlantic Monthly, and Cosmopolitan. Becoming disenchanted with the short story format, Heller turned his attention to the preparation of a novel.
After eight years of work Simon and Schuster published Catch in Heller originally planned to use the number 18 in his title but was dissuaded after Leon Uris published Mila On a mission to Ferrera, Yossarin tries to save the life of a fatally wounded gunner, Snowden, bandaging the wrong wound as Snowden dies.
In protest, Yossarin strips and sits naked in a tree, but he is still awarded a medal. Yossarin fears for his own life, recognizing that the only way to escape from further dangerous missions is to be declared crazy and therefore not be assigned to any additional missions. However, the very act of requesting to be excused from potentially deadly flights indicates a rational mind, and the individual making such a plea could not be insane.
Therefore, to be excused one only has to ask, but the very request denotes sanity, and one has to keep flying. As Doc Daneeka says, "It's some catch; that catch Yossarin becomes convinced that his own officers, such as Colonel Cathcart and General Dreedle, are a greater danger to his life than the enemy Germans. To save himself Yossarin makes a deal with colonels Cathcart and Korn that he will lie for them to their superior officers. With this agreement Yossarin will be excused from flying, but his compliance will increase the number of missions for his comrades.
Yossarin recognizes that he has made a pact with the devil when he is attacked and stabbed by Nately's whore, who holds Yossarin responsible when Nately is killed in action. He admires Nately's whore as someone willing to break the chain of compliance. Accordingly, Yossarin reneges on his deal with Colonels Cathcart and Korn, and, following Orr's example, he deserts, steals a lifeboat, and begins rowing for neutral Sweden.
Catch was more than an antiwar novel; it questioned the conventional wisdom and assumptions of post—World War II America. Some scholars have used the "consensus" concept to describe the United States in the period from the late s to the mids. According to consensus values, the twin pillars of American society were anticommunism and capitalistic economic expansion. The system was sound, and sustained economic growth would extend the benefits of the system to any disadvantaged groups.
There was no reason to protest actively against society, and the only real threat to the promise of American life was encroaching Communism. But Catch challenged these assumptions, poking fun at the U. Scores of Americans are killed, but the mission was profitable. In Heller was ahead of his time. Initial sales of Catch were slow, and some reviewers did not know what to make of the book. For example, R. Stern, writing in the New York Times Book Review, termed Catch an "emotional hodgepodge," and Whitney Balliett of the New Yorker complained that Heller "wallows in his own laughter, and finally drowns in it.
Writing in The Nation, Nelson Algren argued, "Below its hilarity, so wild that it hurts, Catch is the strongest repudiation of our civilization in fiction to come out of World War II. Although reviews were somewhat mixed, sales of the book grew through word of mouth, and it became an underground classic with the youth counterculture. With the expansion of the Vietnam War and the growing protest of that conflict, Heller's novel became increasingly relevant, and by the early s over seven million copies had been sold.
In an interview with the New York Times, Heller acknowledged the role that Vietnam played in the growing popularity of his novel, proclaiming, "Because this is the war I had in mind; a war fought without military provocation, a war in which the real enemy is no longer the other side but someone allegedly on your side. The ridiculous war I felt lurking in the future when I wrote the book. Heller announced that he was pleased with the film, although some critics insisted that Nichols downplayed the novel's satire of capitalism.
Before Catch became a best-seller, Heller had to engage in script writing and teaching to sustain himself economically. In the late s Heller taught fiction and dramatic writing at Yale University , while in the early s he served as the distinguished visiting writer on the English department faculty at the City College of the City University of New York. Heller's opposition to the war in Vietnam was most apparent in his two-act play, We Bombed in New Haven , which he wrote at Yale in The absurdist play was an indictment of war and a denouncement of the military's adherence to following orders.
The play also enjoyed a brief eighty-six performance run on Broadway in , under the direction of John Hersch and with Jason Robards in the lead. Heller also adapted Catch into a play. Heller did not produce another novel until Something Happened , which tells the story of disillusioned businessman James Slocum. In Heller's third novel, Good as Gold, was published. The protagonist in the novel is English professor Bruce Gold, who wants to become the first real Jewish Secretary of State , an obvious statement regarding Henry Kissinger 's role as Secretary of State during the Vietnam War.
God Knows, published in , was an irreverent look at religion through the eyes of King David, who laments that God doesn't talk to him anymore. In , while dealing with the collapse of his marriage to Held, Heller was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a life-threatening neurological disease.
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He survived this brush with death after a partial and temporary paralysis, writing a book about his experience, No Laughing Matter , which he coauthored with his friend Speed Vogel. During his rehabilitation Heller worked with nurse Valerie Humphries, whom he married in Returning to writing in , Heller published Picture This, using art as an entry vehicle through which to address his criticism of power, war, and mass society. In Heller surprised his readers with Closing Time, a sequel to Catch An ambitious undertaking, Closing Time enjoyed decent sales and a favorable critical reaction.
Even when critics complained that the author had never written another book as good as Catch , in reply Heller often quipped, "Who has? In Heller suffered a fatal heart attack at his home in East Hampton. While ignored following its publication, Heller's novel Catch found resonance among those in the s questioning American society and the Vietnam War.
The term "Catch" has entered the English language , and the book has sold approximately twelve million copies.
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Joseph Heller was a popular and respected writer whose first and best-known novel, Catch , was considered a classic piece of literature in the second half of the twentieth century. His father, a bakery-truck driver, died after a surgical operation when Heller was only five years old. Many critics believe that Heller developed the dark, wisecracking humor that marked his writing style while growing up near Coney Island , a famous amusement park in Brooklyn.
Heller recalled little childhood influence in the literary world except for The Illiad by Homer , an eighth-century b. Two years later he was sent to Corsica, an island in the Mediterranean Sea , where he flew sixty combat missions as a fighter pilot, earning an Air Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation. It is generally agreed that Heller's war years in the Mediterranean had only a minimal impact on the creation of Catch After Heller left the military in , he married Shirley Held and began his college education. During this time Heller was also writing short stories and scripts for film and television, as well as working on Catch After the success of Catch, Heller quit his job at McCall's and concentrated exclusively on writing fiction and plays.
Catch concerns a World War II fighter pilot named Yossarian who believes his foolish, ambitious, mean-spirited commanding officers are more dangerous than the enemy. In order to avoid flying more missions, Yossarian retreats to a hospital with a mysterious liver complaint, wrecks his plane, and tries to get himself declared insane.
Variously defined throughout the novel, "Catch" refers to the ways in which officials in command control the people who work for them. My literary bent … is more toward the morbid [gruesome] and the tragic. Great carnage [death] is taking place and my idea was to use humor to make ridiculous the things that are irrational and very terrible. While Heller's place in twentieth-century letters is secured with Catch, he is also highly regarded for his other works, which present a comic vision of modern society with serious moral connections.
A major theme throughout his writing is the conflict that occurs when individuals interact with such powerful institutions as corporations, the military, and the government.
Heller's second novel, Something Happened, centers on Bob Slocum, a middle-aged businessman who has a large, successful company but feels emotionally empty.