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.
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.
Joseph Heller has a web page at Bohemian Ink.
“ ’That’s some catch, that Catch-22,’ he observed.
“ ‘It’s the best there is,’ Doc Daneeka agreed.”