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Joseph Heller (1) (1923–1999)

Author of Catch-22

For other authors named Joseph Heller, see the disambiguation page.

17+ Works 49,813 Members 632 Reviews 120 Favorited

About the Author

American novelist and dramatist Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on May 1, 1923. Heller started off his writing career by publishing a series of short stories, but he is most famous for his satirical novel Catch-22. Set in the closing months of World War II, Catch-22 tells the story of a show more bombardier named Yossarian who discovers the horrors of war and its aftereffects. This novel brought the phrase "catch-22," defined in Webster's Dictionary as "a situation presenting two equally undesirable alternatives," into everyday use. Heller wrote Closing Time, the sequel to Catch-22, in 1994. Other novels include As Good As Gold and God Knows. He also wrote No Laughing Matter, an account of his struggles with Guillain-Barr Syndrome, a neurological disorder, in 1986. Thirty-five years after writing his first book, Heller wrote his autobiography, entitled Now and Then: From Coney Island to Here. In his memoirs, Heller reminisces about what it was like growing up in Coney Island in the 1930s and 1940s. On December 13, 1999, Heller died of a heart attack in his home on Long Island. His last novel, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man, was published shortly after his death. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Photograph by Jerry Bauer


Works by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 (1961) 40,339 copies, 533 reviews
Something Happened (1974) 2,435 copies, 26 reviews
Closing Time (1994) 1,938 copies, 14 reviews
Good as Gold (1979) 1,445 copies, 23 reviews
God Knows (1984) 1,394 copies, 11 reviews
Picture This (1988) 710 copies, 6 reviews
Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man (2000) 580 copies, 4 reviews
Now and Then: From Coney Island to Here (1998) 275 copies, 1 review
No Laughing Matter (1986) 215 copies, 2 reviews
We Bombed in New Haven (1967) 163 copies, 5 reviews
Work (2017) 20 copies, 2 reviews
Sex and the Single Girl [1964 film] (1964) — Screenwriter — 20 copies
Catch-22 : a dramatization (1957) 17 copies, 1 review

Associated Works

The Best of Modern Humor (1983) — Contributor — 294 copies, 2 reviews
Russell Baker's Book of American Humor (1993) — Contributor — 209 copies
Catch-22 [1970 film] (1970) — Original story — 128 copies, 3 reviews
The Best American Mystery Stories 2014 (2014) — Contributor — 93 copies, 3 reviews
Famous American Plays of the 1960s (1972) — Contributor — 63 copies, 1 review
Catch-22 [2019 TV mini-series] (2019) — Original story — 15 copies, 1 review
New world writing : seventh Mentor selection (1955) — Contributor — 8 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1949 (1949) — Contributor — 7 copies
The best of Playboy fiction, Volume 7 (1997) — Contributor — 1 copy


1001 (117) 1001 books (102) 20th century (431) 20th century literature (75) American (483) American fiction (153) American literature (679) anti-war (144) black humor (108) Catch-22 (120) classic (751) classic literature (80) classics (736) comedy (159) favorite (98) favorites (111) fiction (5,407) first edition (83) Folio Society (72) goodreads (119) Heller (108) historical fiction (352) history (88) humor (1,043) Italy (173) Joseph Heller (155) literature (687) military (248) novel (959) own (184) owned (132) paperback (137) read (526) Roman (96) satire (1,211) to-read (2,066) unread (261) USA (162) war (1,147) WWII (1,461)

Common Knowledge

Legal name
Heller, Joseph
Date of death
Brooklyn, New York, New York, USA
Place of death
East Hampton, New York, USA
Cause of death
heart attack
Places of residence
New York, New York, USA
East Hampton, New York, USA
University of Southern California
New York University (BA ∙ 1948)
Columbia University (MA ∙ 1949 ∙ English)
Oxford University (St. Catherine's College)
Abraham Lincoln High School
university teacher
advertising industry
Heller, Ted (son)
Heller, Erica (daughter)
American Academy of Arts and Letters (Literature ∙ 1977)
Pennsylvania State University
US Army Air Force (WWII)
Awards and honors
Fulbright Fellowship (1949-50)
American Academy of Arts and Letters Academy Award (1963)
Candida Donadio
Short biography
Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999) was an American author of novels, short stories, plays, and screenplays. His best-known work is the novel Catch-22, a satire on war and bureaucracy, whose title has become a synonym for an absurd or contradictory choice.

Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn in 1923. In 1961, he published Catch-22, which became a bestseller and, in 1970, a film. He went on to write such novels as Good as Gold, God Knows, Picture This, Closing Time (the sequel to Catch-22), and Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. Heller died in December 1999.



63. Something Happened by Joseph Heller in Backlisted Book Club (March 2022)


It's no Catch-22. Similar wit, but at an even more boring pace.
capincus | 25 other reviews | Jul 13, 2024 |
Joseph Heller is hilarious. Catch 22 is terribly thin on plot and if you're like me it will take you a year to get through this book, but every second of it will be packed full of laughs. Heller put it best in response to a critic of his later work who stated that the author hadn't since written anything to come close to Catch-22, Heller's response of, "who has?," sums it up quite well. Catch-22 may not be the integral piece of literature many people claim it to be, but it sure is funny.
capincus | 532 other reviews | Jul 13, 2024 |
Fun and humorous at times, long-winded and repetitive at others. I loved the way that the story slowly unfolds and everything starts coming together and making more sense.
LaPhenix | 532 other reviews | Jul 8, 2024 |
At first I hated this book. It read like a series of cacophonic vignettes that were loosely connected, kept repeating, and made no sense. All the characters seemed to thrive off trolling each other, lying, and generally being corrupt. It was like a really bad version of M*A*S*H. It also felt like Gretchen Wieners trying to make "fetch" a thing, but in this case it was Joseph Heller making "Catch-22" a thing... and actually succeeding.

Then about halfway through the book it started to make sense. The repetitive vignettes started having more details. The characters became more relatable. The story was actually moving forward. I no longer hated it, but I did not enjoy it.

In the last quarter of the book, I was invested. The vignettes became core memories that, once recalled in completion explained so much of why the main characters were the way they were. I understood why the characters were so unlikable, and that made me appreciate them and like them... most of them.

I still can't say I enjoyed the book, but I can say that I appreciated it. Reading it ended up being like peeling back the layers of an onion made of memories. As you peel back the layers, you slowly understand why those layers existed - why those memories were hidden from plain view. Imaging someone trying to survive a war with those memories, it makes sense that layers would be built up as a survival mechanism.

The open ending made me feel similarly to the end of Handmaid's Tale: grim with only the slightest hint of hope. I like endings like that, leaving the reader to speculate and analyze. It's the kind of story with the kind of ending that makes you just want to sit with it for a spell after you've finished.

… (more)
H4ppyN3rd | 532 other reviews | Jun 28, 2024 |


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