Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller books and biography

Joseph Heller

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Born: May 1, 1923 [1]
Brooklyn, New York [1]
Died: December 12, 1999 [1]
Long Island, New York [1]
Occupation: Novelist
Genres: Fiction
Influenced: Robert Altman, Kurt Vonnegut

Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999) was an American satirical novelist and playwright. He wrote the influential Catch-22 about American servicemen during World War II. It was this work whose title (which was originally Catch-18) became the term commonly used to express absurdity in choice.

Heller is widely regarded as one of the best post-World War satirists. Although he is remembered mostly by his landmark Catch-22, his works, centered on the lives of various members of the middle classes, remain exemplars of modern satire.



Joseph Heller was born in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, the son of poor Jewish parents. After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1941, Heller joined the Twelfth Air Force at age 19. He was stationed in Corsica, where he flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier. It was these experiences that later became the inspiration for his first novel, Catch-22. After the war, he studied English at the University of Southern California and NYU. In 1949, Heller received his M.A. from Columbia University. From 1949-1950, he was a Fulbright scholar at St. Catherine's College in Oxford University. He returned to St. Catherine's as a visiting Fellow, for a term, in 1991 and was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the college.[1] Heller died in 1999.

Catch-22 Controversy

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,[2] 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"(The Washington Post, April 27, 1998).

Something Happened (1974), 1995 Vintage paperback edition ISBN 9-780-09988980-9
Something Happened (1974), 1995 Vintage paperback edition ISBN 9-780-09988980-9


Short stories

  • Catch As Catch Can: The Collected Stories and Other Writings (2003)
  • Three Short Stories Of Utter Annoyance


  • No Laughing Matter (1988)
  • Now And Then (1998).


  • Catch 22 (1961)
  • Something Happened (1974)
  • Good as Gold (1979)
  • God Knows (1984)
  • Picture This (1988)
  • Closing Time (1994)
  • Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man (2000)


  • We Bombed in New Haven (1967)
  • Catch 22 (1971)
  • Clevinger's Trial (1973)


Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Joseph Heller
  • "When I read something saying I've not done anything as good as Catch-22 I'm tempted to reply, 'Who has?'"
  • "How much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of Creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements?"
  • "Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them."
  • There's a big cocktail party on Martha's Vineyard. Someone comes up to Joseph Heller, and says, "Joe, see that guy over there? He's a hedge fund manager, and he made more money yesterday than you made on all the books you have ever published." Heller looks over, pauses and says, "Yeah, but I have something he'll never have: enough."
  • "Ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, every president has been worse than his predecessor."


  • Joseph Heller was friends with fellow satiric author (and World War II veteran and coeval) Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote a review on his Something Happened.
  • In Timequake Kurt Vonnegut cites Joseph Heller's Catch-22 as a 'must read'.
  • In LOST Season 3 Episode 17 Desmond finds a copy of Catch 22 in Portuguese(ARDIL-22).

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