"Catch 22" was published by Joseph Heller in 1961. It is a satirical novel written in the third person omniscient. The book follows an bombardier officer during World War II, Yossarian. He is paranoid because soldiers he doesn't know are trying to kill him. He is sure he will die and begins to walk backward so no one … [Read more...] about Catch 22
Joseph Heller was born in 1923 in Brooklyn, New York. He wrote ironical novels and short stories, as well as plays. His parents were from Russia. They were a poor Jewish family. As a child, he loved to write and wrote a story for the New York Daily News as a teenager on the Russian invasion of Finland.
Before joining the United States Army Air Corps (which became the Air Force) as nineteen years old, he worked as a blacksmith, messenger and a filing clerk. At twenty-one years old he was sent to Italy and flew sixty combat missions. After discharge he enrolled at the University of Southern California and NYU paid for by the G I Bill. He earned his M. A. in English from Columbia University in 1949. Then he was a Fulbright Scholar at St. Catherine's College in Oxford in England. When his education ended he began teaching composition at Pennsylvania State University. He taught for two years, then taught fiction and writing at Yale. For a short time he worked at a copywriter with Mary Higgins Clark.
Although he was a prolific writer, Heller's best known book is "Catch 22". While relaxing at home one morning in 1953, he had what is known to writers today as a "plot-bunny". A single thought or sentence that sends the writer into a story or novel. For Heller it was the opening line, "It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, [Yossarian] fell madly in love with him". By the end of the next day he had a plot line and the characters. By the end of the week he had written the first chapter and sent it to his agent. Originally it was called "Catch-18", but due to the publication of Uris' "Mila 18", when the novel was published, the name changed to "Catch 22" and became an idiom for American language. A catch 22 is a paradoxical problem. For example, a person needs experience to get a job, but can't get experience without a job.
The novel was received to mixed reviews early, but now has become a classic and is listed as number seven on the Modern Library's list of top one hundred novels of the twentieth century. It is used by the United States Air Force Academy to help officers recognize the problems of bureaucracy.
Heller also wrote the novel Something Happened, and the television script for "McHale's Navy."
He also wrote the play, "We Bombed in New Haven" which played on Broadway. In 1994 he published "Closing Time" which followed the lives of some of the characters from "Catch 22" after World War II was over. When an interviewer asked him if he had ever written anything as good as "Catch 22" he responded, "Who has?".
In 1945 Heller married Shirley Held. They had two children and divorced in 1984. He met his second wife, Valerie Humphries while recovering from a debilitating illness, Guillain-Barre Syndrome. She was his nurse at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine. He was temporarily paralyzed and his recovery was long and painful. The story is recounted in his autobiography, "No Laughing Matter". The book is co-authored with Speed Vogel. In his book he tells of the help and companionship he received from such friends as Mel Brooks, Mario Puzo, and Dustin Hoffman.
After an almost full recovery, Heller continued teaching and writing. He died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of seventy-nine in his home. He had just completed his last novel, "Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man."