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Something Happened by Joseph Heller

Something Happened (1974)

by Joseph Heller

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2,013175,118 (3.43)59
"As it opens, he 'gets the willies.' At the end, he has 'taken command.' What happens in 'Something Happened' happens to Bob Slocum -- in his forties, contending with his office...trying to come to grips with his wife...with his daughter...with his son...and with his other son, and with his own past and his own present....(What happens?) Something."… (more)

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Underrated second book is more subtle but wicked in ironic humor. Attack on corporate American society. ( )
  atufft | Jul 4, 2019 |
Joseph Heller’s claim to fame was "Catch 22"… a black comedy about the military service. "Something Happened" is also labeled a black comedy- so I was prepared for a unique story- something quirky, dark, and cynical. It’s black, quirky, and cynical alright, but I must have missed the comedy portion.

The story is written in stream of conscious format with Bob Slocum narrating. From the very beginning it is obvious Bob is different. The opening sentence is, “I get the willies when I see closed doors.” Unhappy, self-centered, angry, insecure, disappointed in life both in his job and marriage- all obvious. But dangerous? Scary? Mentally deranged? That remains to be seen. One sure thing, Bob Slocum is not a likable character.

In 1974 when "Something Happened" was written the sexual revolution was in full swing. After decades of forced modesty, strict rules on sexual behavior (especially for girls), young women were suddenly realizing it was okay to have sex before marriage. And many unhappily married couples realized it was okay to break the rules, and if they got caught divorce was okay too.

But something did indeed happen in Bob Slocum’s life. He has no morals, no scruples, no respect for women. I don’t think he likes women. In fact, he harbors ill-will towards everyone. He goes way beyond having casual affairs with mutually consenting women. He visits prostitutes, picks up strangers regularly which would be no-one’s business but his own if he were not a married man with children. He thinks about divorce a lot. Wishes his wife would cheat on him so he could have grounds for divorce. But then he can’t decide if he would leave her or kill her. His imagination is unlimited. He has violent thoughts, and a depressing outlook.

And he lies. He contradicts himself in self-analysis- lies to himself. As the story unfolds the readers starts to question the validity of Bob’s thoughts. Bob seems to be coming unhinged.

Joseph Heller is good at character development, and dialogue. I wasn’t crazy about the plot. Many reviews of Something Happened complain of the repetition of the writing, rehashing the same information over and over, but isn’t that a normal part of the thinking process? Repeating one’s thoughts expresses truly authentic stream-of-conscious writing. "Something Happened" would be good fodder for book clubs... especially with the “Me Too” movement in full swing. Because according to Bob Slocum the women were just as frequently the aggressors. But then again, could you really trust Bob Slocum’s judgement? ( )
  LadyLo | May 14, 2019 |
Its a good book with a lot of different mini stories leading up to a very big one which is why I like it. It also has a lot of suspense and its really interesting. ( )
1 vote Drea03 | May 3, 2019 |
I confess that I'm struggling slightly with this book. I read the first hundred pages or so on a three-hour train journey, but haven't got much farther since. The problem is the narrator. Robert Slocum is, quite simply, a complete arse. He is misogynistic and self absorbed and thoroughly negative. I know that part of this is, of course, that Slocum represents the ennui and materialistic rootlessness of the American middle classes, and he is also probably suffering from depression or some other mental problem (caused by whatever the 'something' was that happened), but his constant winging is very wearing to read.

It has to be said, that in the hands of a lesser writer this would be completely unreadable, but Heller does manage to make Slocum interesting, if not entirely sympathetic. He is not a cypher, but a fully developed character, if an unpleasant one. he is adrift in a world of selfish, backstabbing commerce where the only drive is the ego - advancement, money, sex, gratification - but what makes Slocum so unsympathetic is that he embraces this whilst complaining about it (and that only in terms of how hard done by he is) and that he even treats his wife and children as competitors to be beaten.
1 vote Pezski | Jun 8, 2017 |
The title is somewhat misleading on this one because absolutely nothing happened in this 500 page novel. Set in the late 1960s early 1970s, our narrator is Bob Slocum, a businessman with a wife, three children, multiple mistresses, and a boss he's afraid of. The pages are filled with his ramblings about his personal insecurities, his sex life, memories from his childhood that may or may not be accurate, and reasons why he's afraid of nearly everyone and everything in his life.

If you're looking for a stream of consciousness novel with an unreliable narrator, this is the book for you. If you're looking for a book you may actually enjoy, however, I'd avoid this one. I nearly gave up on it after the first 50 pages or so, and I probably should have. It did get a little better as it went on, although that could have been because I was just getting used to it. The sexual content was a bit too crude for my taste, and the whole thing was boring as hell. There was not a single likeable character in the whole novel. Heller is just a classic one hit wonder. My advice is to stick to Catch 22 and ignore everything else he ever wrote.
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1 vote AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
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I get the willies when I see closed doors.
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