Animated Star 17th Annual Key West Literary Seminar Animated Star
January 7-10, 1999
Writers' Workshops - January 11-14, 1999
The American Novel, January 7-10, 1999 JOSEPH HELLER

JOSEPH HELLER was born in 1923 in the Coney Island area of Brooklyn, New York, where he attended public elementary and high school. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps at nineteen, during World War II. As a first lieutenant and bombardier, he flew sixty combat missions in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He then went on to receive his B.A. in English Literature from New York University in 1948 (Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and a Master of Arts Degree in American Literature from Columbia University in 1949. He was a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University from 1949-1950.

Joseph Heller
Between 1952 and 1962, he worked for a succession of corporate organizations doing mainly advertising and promotion writing and producing business scripts and film shows of various sorts for such companies as Remington Rand and such magazines as “Time,“ “Look,” and “MCall’s”. Between 1960 and 1970, he also did occasional teaching and screenplay and television work, published some articles, wrote the play “We Bombed in New Haven,” and was involved in the two productions, one in New Haven, one in New York. In 1970, Heller took a formal teaching post at City College in New York and concentrated on the completion of his second novel. Following the publication of that novel, “Something Happened,” in 1974, he left teaching and has been living as a full-time writer since, mainly of novels.

In the early 1980s Heller became first paralyzed and then seriously weakened by a deadly nerve disease, Guillain-Barre Syndrome; with his friend Speed Vogal, he interpreted this experience and his recovery in the collaborative work, “No Laughing Matter.”

From 1982 on, Heller has lived in East Hampton, New York. He is married for the second time. From his first marriage he has two grown children, a daughter, Erica, and a son, Ted.
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“ ’That’s some catch, that Catch-22,’ he observed.

“ ‘It’s the best there is,’ Doc Daneeka agreed.”
Joseph Heller has a web page at Bohemian Ink.

Animated book    BIBLIOGRAPHY    Animated book
  • CATCH-22 (1961)
  • WE BOMBED IN NEW HAVEN (a drama) (1970)
  • GOOD AS GOLD (1979)
  • GOD KNOWS (1984) (Winner of the Prix Medici d’Estrangers in France)
        (An autobiographical account of Heller’s
        illness and recovery from Guillain-Barre syndrome in 1982)

  • PICTURE THIS (1989)
  • CLOSING TIME (1994)
        (a continuation and a companion volume to “Catch-22)



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