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1. God Knows
2. Now and Then: From Coney Island
3. Good As Gold
4. Something Happened
5. Picture This : A Novel
6. Closing Time: The Sequel to Catch-22
7. Catch As Catch Can: The Collected
8. Catch-22
9. Portrait of an Artist, as an Old
10. No Laughing Matter
12. Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (Bloom's
13. Bodywise: An Introduction to Hellerwork
15. Joseph Heller (Twayne's United
16. The Anti-Hero in the American
17. Understanding Joseph Heller: Revised
18. Now and Then: A Memoir - From
19. Tilting at Mortality: Narrative
20. The Fiction of Joseph Heller:

1. God Knows
by Joseph Heller
Paperback: 368 Pages (1997-11-12)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$2.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684841258
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
This zany, sexy version of the story of King David, told as a modern allegory of what it is like for a Jew to survive in a hostile world, is "original, sad, wildly funny, and filled with roaring. . . . Heller's King David, a splendid creation, is not so much a man for all seasons as man in all his seasons" (The New York Times Book Review). ... Read more

Customer Reviews (27)

5-0 out of 5 stars Possibly better than Catch-22?
Heller satirizes human nature, which allows for jokes about something three thousand years ago to easily relate to modern times. His snarky, bawdy, and matter-of-fact tone may be more accurate to King David than anything in the Bible. But the outrageous (-ly hilarious) anachronisms keep you grounded in the reality that this is historical fiction. A must for anyone who enjoys good laughs with good messages.

5-0 out of 5 stars god knows--good book and good deal
i was very glad to find the book, god knows, by joseph heller. it is fairly hard to find these days, i don't know why. however, it's a great story.also, the book was delivered fairly quickly, and in excellent condition.from now on, i will be buying alot of books from this site.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Reimagining
The David story is, arguably, the best-known story in the world. Tackling it is an act of supreme chutzpah. Joseph Heller, as always, fails to disappoint.

It's a crime and a sin that Heller never won the Pulitzer Prize. He should have, many times over, if for no other reason than his body of work clearly shows that humor can be just as effective a statement on the human condition as something that makes you want to slash your wrists. "God Knows" is a breathtaking take on the maddeningly complicated and all too human life of King David. Heller brings King David, in all his complexity, to life as no one else ever has. David, in his dotage, is here in all facets of his character--the adulterer, murderer, consummate politician, cranky and disappointed Jewish father, and one-time confidant of God.

The book is a jaw-dropping accomplishment on a hundred different levels. It's a classic work of humor, damn fine erotica, and where Heller got the audacity to interweave David's story from a perspective that uses time the way Escher used space (David kvetches about his statue by Michelangelo, continually rails against that second-rate hack William Shakespeare, sighs about there being no amniocentesis when Abigail was pregnant with Chileab, and refuses to buy Bathsheba a word processor), God knows.

But the real accomplishment of God Knows is that it illustrates just how timeless the really great stories are. David's story has as much to say about the human condition today as it did in 1000 B.C.--but it takes a genius to show us how. Fortunately, Heller was a genius.

4-0 out of 5 stars God Knows
The book is written from the point of view of King David after his marriage to Bathsheba and his falling-out with God.Although it is written with an ironic Jewish humor, there is a poignant undercurrent as David suffers the deep loss and hurt he feels now that he no longer has regular 'conversations' with God.Of course, marriage to Bathsheba is not everything he expected, either...Heller humanizes David with tenderness, and the reader cannot help but be drawn into his anguish. I don't believe I have ever encountered such an effective portrayal of a Biblical figure---I just know David sounded just like Mel Brooks!

2-0 out of 5 stars Not very funny, not captivating, and not historically accurate
I found this book listed in a bibliography of recommended works of historical fiction.What I expect from historical fiction is a captivating story, with historical reality woven into the story.This book has almost no story line, and it betrays no evidence of scholarly research into the historical background to the biblical texts.It is rather an attempt at a humorous rendering of as much material as possible from the Hebrew Bible, with stories taken from the Bible pretty much at face value.This kind of material is mildly amusing at first, but it gets old quickly.For example, on page 40 where David reviews the Exodus story at great length:

"Some Promised Land.The honey was there, but the milk we brought in with our goats.To people in California, God gives a magnificent coastline, a movie industry, and Beverly Hills.To us He gives sand. To Cannes He gives a plush film festival.We get the PLO. Our winters are rainy, our summers hot. To people who didn't know how to wind a wristwatch He gives underground oceans of oil. To us He gives hernia, piles, and anti-Semitism."

Or on page 255 where David makes fun of the name Hadadezer:

"Many people were burdened with exotic names like that back then, and often, in my speculations on the esoteric, I theorize that the singular reason men like Joseph, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, and me were selected by the currents of destiny to stand out from the ordinary was that we all have solid English names that are recognizable and familiar.It's no big wonder to me that my recorder Jehoshaphat leaps a foot into the air each time he's called.I would jump too if my name were Jehoshaphat or Hadadezer."

Mark Twain could attempt a project like this and make it funny while conveying a profound message at the same time.But this book is only infrequently somewhat amusing and it will not teach anyone anything about the biblical texts or their historical background that can't be gotten as readily by reading an English Bible.
... Read more

2. Now and Then: From Coney Island to Here
by Joseph Heller
Paperback: 272 Pages (1999-01-26)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$2.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375700552
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
From the author of two of our most legendary novels, Catch-22 and Something
, comes a slyly funny, vastly revelatory memoir that is at once a loving
evocation of a lost America and an exploration of the frontier where life turns
into literature.

Now and Then follows Joseph Heller from his fatherless childhood on the
boardwalks of Depression-era Coney Island, where he grew up amid the rumble of
the Cyclone and the tantalizing aroma of Mrs. Shatzkin's knishes. It offers a
dizzying bombardier's-eye view of the sky over wartime Italy, where Heller
encountered the characters and incidents he would later translate into Catch-22.
It depicts a writer coming to terms with both rejection and celebrity. Here, in
short, is a life filled with incident and insight, recollected withsubversive
humor, exquisite timing, and a fine appreciation for the absurd.Amazon.com Review
Catch-18 was the intended title of Joseph Heller's mostfamous novel, Catch-22, which the author renamed to avoidconfusion with Leon Uris's bestseller Mila 18. It's hard now toimagine anyone ever mistaking a single line written by Heller for thework of someone else; his atmospheric new memoir grabs readers'attention with the same plain, powerful prose; blunt, but oddlytender, humor; and striking ability to recreate a particular time andplace that distinguishes all his fiction.

The brief, haunting section on his air force service confirms thatHeller drew on his own experiences for Catch-22. But it's hisboyhood home, Brooklyn's Coney Island in the 1920s and '30s, thatprompts Now and Then's best pages. You can practically tastethe cheap ice cream and hot knishes, hear the shrieks of kids on theamusement park's hurtling rides, see the facades of long-demolishedapartment buildings, and smell the sand-and-salt odor wafting from thebeach. The dignity and emotional reticence of Heller's widowed mother,the security he felt in an impoverished but safe immigrantneighborhood, come to life just as vividly.

Scattered anecdotes about famous friends (including Irwin Shaw andJames Jones) are also evocative, and occasional comments about hisnovels' themes reveal Heller to be a better self-critic than mostwriters. But it's his affectionate tribute to a vanished New York thatmost clearly displays this popular author's narrative skills andengaging personality. --Wendy Smith ... Read more

Customer Reviews (12)

3-0 out of 5 stars A Past Life
In this book, which is categorized as a biography (autobiography), Joseph Heller recounts his life.Though it is a biography, much of the focus strays from the author.For example, while a good portion of the book focuses on the era of his youth, most of the pages focus on changes in Coney Island and the people in the neighborhood.Heller's family life is discussed, but it almost seems as though Heller is avoiding some aspects of it intentionally.Admittedly, discussion of his father's death was avoided in the family.The reader may wonder what other things Heller did not want to talk about.

Most people know of Joseph Heller because of "Catch-22".Heller does reveal some interesting details about the book including people from his war experience on which characters were based.Because Heller shies away from the spotlight, many of these details were first published in "Now and Then".For aspiring writers, Heller docuemts the long, hard road he took to getting published.Aside from the war, Heller worked to magazines and other odd job trying on his road to success.

While there were some amusing and revealing points to the book, there was not enough about the author.The book had a lot of potential in its embryonic stages, but the editor neglected to have Heller focus on the reason people would buy the book.People want to read about Joseph Heller not the interesting people he met in his life.

3-0 out of 5 stars Heller, but
not like his novels, because this book is less edited--irrelevancies, parenthetical comments, asides, which slow down narrative. Masterful description of sights and sounds still there--characteristic of other New York writers, such as Breslin and Puzo-- but without ominousness of "Closing Time." Descriptions of Coney Island are superb; if he had grown up anywhere else, he and his life would have been very different. Has difficulty reading character in real life; describes one classmate as "an idealist;" T.S. Eliot told Donald Hall the same fellow was a shameless careerist for hounding widow Yeats for her husband's literary papers. Turns his contemporaties into rivals, unnecessarily.Subjects he avoids demonstrate Victorian propriety. Dislikes being an icon, despite seeking fame and writing for money. A romantic with a mystical streak who becomes nihilistic from disappointment--perfect for a post-war icon and truthful as far as it goes, which isn't far enough. Enough truth here to be worth reading. All criticism diminishes him, for example, even from people he detests. What writer would argue with that?

3-0 out of 5 stars Neal Simon did it better
Heller's memoir isn't badly written. It's more that his life is rather dull. Most of the book focuses on his childhood in Coney Island, where he has no bad memories and no exciting ones. The Depression didn't affect him. His father's death didn't affect him. Nothing affected him. And not much happened. As a result, the memoir tends to drag out. Chapters 8 and 9, titled 'Peace' and Psychiatry' respectively, were very good. That's the period of the war and afterward. Those are the chapters that get into his writing, and this is where the memoir picks up (though it drags again in the final chapter, when we go back to Coney Island and more discussion on what happened to the people he grew up with--which is to say, nothing interesting). And there is little insight into Catch-22 (and if you are Joseph Heller, Catch-22 is the most important thing you've done, an instant classic, and what everyone knows you for--there should have been more of a focus on it), which is truly a shame.

4-0 out of 5 stars A great memoir, even if it isn't that linear
I bought this book solely on my admiration of Heller's great book Catch-22, and I wanted to find out more background on the guy who wrote this strange and cynical bit of humor.But once I started reading, I got pulled into another realm, the world of Coney Island during the depression, where a fatherless Jewish family struggled to make ends meet while living in the shadows of this wonderland boardwalk and amusement park area.I live near Coney Island, and always wonder about its past, the demographic that lived there and made it mighty, and then watched it coast back down to what it is today.Heller's book is such a wonderful and detailed display of this childhood, that after fifty pages, I didn't even care about what happened to him in the war.This is covered a bit, and he does lay down some interesting facts about how some people and events in Catch-22 really happened.But he doesn't spend that much time on the war, and instead drifts into how his writing career got started, how he worked the chump jobs and waited for the magazines to pay him $10 a story, until he really made it.The book is a bit anticlimactic in the end, especially when you realize Heller is gone now and this is the end of the road.But despite his habit of jumping forward and backward in time (A lot like Catch') I'd call this book a success, although maybe in an area that wasn't as advertized by the jacket or publicity.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Fine Representation of Heller's Psychology and Style
If you are like me, you are tempted by autobiographies of writers whose work you love.You hope to get that extra bit of insight that will expand your appreciation of their writing.Usually, these hints come from long passages about writing and inspiration concerning those works.In Now and Then, Mr. Heller is more laconic about that sort of information than many writers are.On the other hand, he is very generous in explaining his personal psychology, demons, work habits, and writing blocks.You will come to appreciate that Mr. Heller is a man beset by some important demons who overcomes them with wry wit that delights almost everyone.The book's weakness is that you will perhaps get more knowledge about Coney Island in the 1930s than you had counted on.If you are from Coney Island, on the other hand, you will revel in all of the myriad details and will want to give this book more than five stars.

Mr. Heller takes great pleasure in his success, his career, his recognition, and his accomplishments.He takes equal delight in his ability to use language with precision and erudition.The autobiography allows him plenty of opportunities to focus on all of these pleasing elements.To make this self-indulgence more palatable to the reader, he pokes a bit of fun at himself with gentle irony.

But all of this seeming self-indulgence is really procrastination to delay dealing with the painful parts of his life story.His father's death while he was young, and later exposure to the horrors of war in World War II left a deep stamp on his emotional make-up.The book describes an important catharsis as Mr. Heller identifies what he learned from psychoanalysis and the pscyhological testing that his employers applied.His self-descriptions perfectly mirror his characterization of what happened in a typical psychoanalysis session.He would tell witty stories, jokes, and did everything possible to please the analyst . . . so he would not have to focus on the problems that faced him that day.And so the book does the same.

I came away with a new appreciation for Mr. Heller after coming to see how much of his great writing and humor serve as his defense against deep emotional wounds.I hope that we can all learn how to cope as well.

After you finish this book, think about where you procrastinate.What is it that you are trying to avoid facing about yourself?

Tell the truth . . . and make it interesting if you want to help others!You may also help youself.

... Read more

3. Good As Gold
by Joseph Heller
Paperback: 448 Pages (1997-11-12)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$2.72
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684839741
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Hailed as "one of the important books of our generation" by the Chicago Sun-Times, this hilarious story of middle-aged English professor Dr. Bruce Gold and his encounter with White House politics takes readers into the heart of the Jewish experience in contemporary America. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

3-0 out of 5 stars Only some of this gold shines
This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me.It is strongest in those parts where it most resembles Catch-22.Heller is extremely good at emphasizing the absurdity of bureaucracy, in any form.In this book he manages to take on politicians, higher education and big money, high society, all to great effect.The dialog in these portions of the book is a roller coaster of parody and cynicsm that "boggles the mind", to borrow a catch phrase from the book.This is Heller at his best.

However, the portions of the book that deal with Gold's family and personal life left me disappointed.While Heller seems to be trying to take aim as family dysfunction, I just couldn't bring myself to care enough for these characters to really connect with any of the family strife.While there were moments of dialog that showed spark, most of the portions delving into Gold's personal life simply felt flat and monontonous, and slowed the entire pace of the book down.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great read
More proof of what a great author Joseph Heller was.This book rivals Catch 22 and is highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars Tarnishing Washington
In "Good as Gold", Joseph Heller does for Washington what he did to the military in "Catch-22".As a fan of Heller's other works, I had high expectations for this book.While I thought there were a lot of humorous moments, it is a notch slightly below "Catch-22" and "Something Happened".

Welcome to Washington where if something is not working, try the opposite.In Washington, everybody has a job working for the government yet nobody knows what their job is.It makes far less sense than the politics of high school homecoming queen.Enter Bruce Gold.Bruce Gold lives a paradox like the one in Washington.His family lacks respect for him despite his achievements.He is a college professor and author, yet his father respects his high school dropout brother more.When the president likes his writing, Gold seems to be a shoe-in in the president's inner-circle.But first, Gold needs a wife that is not so dumpy.Other extra-marrital affairs might also help his career.Gold has his sights set on the Secretary of State, but he needs more connections and places more stress on his pressured integrity.At this point, Gold wonders if it is all worth the price he is paying.His family still hates him and his soon-to-be second wife is far inferior to the first wife.Is Washington really worth the trouble?

There were a lot of aspects of this book that I liked.I do not feel that the story engaged me in the same way some of Heller's books did.The story just seemed to go to long in some areas and lost me.Heller is a very gifted writer and one of my favorites.I would still recommend this book to others.4 1/2 stars would be a more appropriate rating.

3-0 out of 5 stars A novel that boggles the mind!
Bruce Gold, an apathetic professor, is offered the chance for success, fame and fortune in Washinton D.C. But, he must first reshape his life, which may mean cutting out his wacky family. Furthermore, he's faced with the task of writing about the Jewish experience in America, but isn't sure he's lived it and thus has to figure out what it is. So, starts Good as Gold.

The novel starts somewhat slowly, with sometimes tiring descriptions of Gold's get-togethers with his strange family. These are somewhat boring in the early part of the book, but do become more entertaining as the book goes on once they begin to become funny. The memembers of his family are strange, particularly his father, mother-in-law and brother. They bring the most entertainment to the family scenes as Gold faces the frustration of dealing with his father's incorrigibility, his mother-in-law's hostility towards him and his brother's prodding and teasing.

The story certainly has laugh-out-loud moments, particularly the scenes in which Gold is conversing with his friend in Washingtong Ralph, who is very vague in what he does and has a contradictory way of speaking. Moreover, is the strange Andrea Conover, a beautiful women in love who with Gold, yet wants to continue her relationships with other men and doesn't see why that would bother Gold. The sexual escapades of Gold are quite entertaining as he seems to have no trouble attracting beautiful women with strange behavior.

The problem with this book is that although it certainly has many funny moments, it doesn't exactly seem to go anywhere. The reader is exposed to quite a few scenes with Gold's family, but maybe a little bit too much. It would have been nice to see more events unfold in Washington D.C., as scenes dealing with politicians are probably the funniest. The story doesn't have much in the way of plot development, but rather numerous funnymoments with family, politicians and women. Moreover, the worst parts of the book were the sections dealing with Henry Kissinger. Gold despises him and sometimes whole pages are boringly dedicated to discussion of Kissinger. It bogs down the book.

I've read Catch-22 by Heller and this certainly isn't as funny, but it does have its own hilarity and ridiculous moments worth of quite a few laughs. It isn't great, but I think it's worth reading if you're really interested. I actually give it a little above 3 stars, but not enough to warrant 4.

5-0 out of 5 stars Classic Heller
Joseph Heller is probably the only writer who could always make me laugh out loud.This is a book about a college professor and writer who gets a chance to go to Washington to work for the President.An old friend of his works at the White House and invites him to come to work there, but won't tell him what the job is or when he can start.The friend tells Gold that they want to make a big announcement about the appointment, but want to keep it secret.Everything this guy says is an oxymoron.

Meanwhile, his family is driving him crazy.His father and step mother live in Florida during the winters, but come back to New York for the summer.The whole family is anxious for them to go back to Florida, but they keep stalling.Gold's brother makes idiotic comments, constantly badgering him and trying to get him into a fight.Gold is always being put into a position where he can either argue and look like he's showing off, or ignore the comment and be criticized for ignoring the mistake in his brother's comment.

If you've enjoyed any of Joseph Heller's other books, this is more of the same, so you should get a kick out of this one too. ... Read more

4. Something Happened
by Joseph Heller
Paperback: 576 Pages (1997-11-12)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$7.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684841215
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Bob Slocum was living the American dream. He had a beautiful wife, three lovely children, a nice house...and all the mistresses he desired. He had it all -- all, that is, but happiness. Slocum was discontent. Inevitably, inexorably, his discontent deteriorated into desolation until...something happened.

Something Happened is Joseph Heller's wonderfully inventive and controversial second novel satirizing business life and American culture. The story is told as if the reader was overhearing the patter of Bob Slocum's brain -- recording what is going on at the office, as well as his fantasies and memories that complete the story of his life. The result is a novel as original and memorable as his Catch-22. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (75)

5-0 out of 5 stars Dark and revealing
A great book. Humorous but far darker than Catch 22, Bob Slocum's internal monologue, for me, was at times like looking into a mirror, and I believe that many readers will see themselves reflected back when reading it. Heller adapts a stream of consciousness style and doesn't flinch in the delivery, from the start until the tragic and strangely redemptive end.

4-0 out of 5 stars Unrelelnting look into the mind of a male in middle-aged crisis
How can you not read a book that starts with "I get the willies when I see closed doors."

I loved this book of pure cynicism yet have no idea how it ended up in my library.Whoever read it before me peppered the pages with small penciled check marks at passages that, I assume, jumped out at them or spoke to them as the unspeakable truth of one unhappy man.I'm more bold--there are paragraphs and pages underlined and starred in blue ink.

I love how the narrator, I don't even know his name, has the most dysfunction relationship with his family and co-workers.Toward his daughter, he muses: "I'd really rather not know, for example (even though my wife and I feel obliged to probe), exactly what kind of games are played at the parties my teen-age daughter goes to, or what kind of cigarettes are smoked, or what color pills or capsules are sniffed or swallowed. When police cars collect, I don't want to know why, although I'm glad they've arrived and hope they've come in time to do what they've been called to do." That is one hell of a well-put together thought!

This is the first and only book of Joseph Heller I've read so far. But it's obvious he can look inside people and reveal their souls.I loved gems like, "In the office in which I work there are five people of who I am afraid. Each of these five people is afraid of four people (excluding overlaps)..."

Heller is quite playful, he writes, "A man named Gray has joined the company from a high government post and will fit right in between Black and White. We have no primary colors left..."

The second to last chapter is so sad.It's an inevitable conclusion to a fear the dad struggles with throughout the story.

This book is a must read.I've thought of it often over the years.

Marie Estorge

5-0 out of 5 stars Catch-22's Darker Cousin
Catch-22's darker cousin

Bob Slocum, the protagonist of Something Happened, is the prototypical successful modern man.Replete with all the trappings--ascending career, expansive home in the suburbs, attractive wife--he is the ideal we (the sons) were told we were supposed to aspire to. But to our dismay Bob Slocum is a man in the full throws of existential crisis. We find him in his late forties standing on the precipice, staring into the abyss.Here is a man adrift in a world devoid of rational purpose or design, confronting the absurdity and randomness of life.We are witnesses to the full horror of this painful realization.For close to 600 pages, Bob Slocum screams out to us a plea for understanding, a plea perhaps predicated on the idea that if he can reach us, take us inside his reality, then maybe his alienation and loneliness will be alleviated.Why else would he be telling us all this stuff?Page after page he drones on with an endless repetition of the mundane minutiae of his pathetic existence.This is not the result of sloppy writing or editing.No, this is a novel which is intentionally tedious. So why am I suggesting you read it?Because Joseph Heller is a master of conveying the essence of the gut-wrenching dread that modern man and woman experience as they search for meaning in an ever-expanding universe of emptiness.The author thankfully makes this task more palatable through the use of understated irony and clever, albeit self-conscious, word play.No, this is not Catch-22.This is not a fun novel and its rewards are to be found not in its humor (which is certainly there), but in our identification with and empathy for the main character.A character, who, even with all his foibles and blemishes, is ultimately extremely sympathetic.Although at times I had my doubts, I am glad I persisted with this under-appreciated masterpiece.

5-0 out of 5 stars "Too Real" is the only legitimate criticism I've heard
The title fits the book perfectly. This is basically the very honest narrative of a character (Bob) whose life didn't quite turn out the way he wanted. In the process of exploring his past, there doesn't seem to be a single "fork in the road" moment to trace back where everything went bad. Instead, as is so much more common, he sees innumerable minute compromises... no individual one a keystone to the life he has lived, but each one an incremental step towards the place where he now finds himself. To be sure, the protagonist is flawed- maybe even deserves your contempt. Some people are not comfortable with that. Bob does seem a bit too at ease with his infidelities and the cold, loveless way he measures up members of his own family is hard to sympathize with... but it does not make him unrealistic. Unfortunately, it makes him more realistic, and the author is just calling the world as he sees it. There are plenty of works of great fiction which still "feel" like fiction, but this is fiction which feels real- this could really be an interview with an actual person (if anybody is so introspective, honest, and insightful as Bob), which is testiment to the Joseph Heller's craft and honesty.

5-0 out of 5 stars Your Patience Will Be Rewarded
Sometimes, this book is a pain.It does not have a strong, linear plot.It uses lots of parenthetical thoughts (some of them pages long).You may find it hard to read on occasion.

And yet, it is a joy.Something Happened superbly captures affluent suburban America of the sixties and the corporate culture that made it possible.Many of the features Heller describes inside main character Bob Slocum's companystill ring true today.Many an honest male reader will recognize elements of the often unlikable Slocum in himself.

I'm glad that I hung in there with Something Happened.Give this book a chance and you may be, too. ... Read more

5. Picture This : A Novel
by Joseph Heller
Paperback: 352 Pages (2000-03-24)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$4.69
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684868199
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

Picture this: Rembrandt is creating his famous painting of Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer. As soon as he paints an ear on Aristotle, Aristotle can hear. When he paints an eye, Aristotle can see. And what Aristotle sees and hears and remembers from the ancient past to this very moment provides the foundation for this lighthearted, freewheeling jaunt through 2,500 years of Western Civilization.

Picture This is an incisive fantasy that digs deeply into our illusions and customs. Nobody but Joseph Heller could have thought of a novel like this one. Nobody but Heller could have executed it so brilliantly. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (12)

5-0 out of 5 stars A great, underrated book
I read this book twice and I do plan to pick it up again sometime. The first paragraph sent my head spinning, but I got the hang of the book in a while. It's profound and satirical. I think Heller takes a wry look at how little some things have changed down the ages. He does this in a very entertaining way. I understand Heller never won critical aclaim after Catch 22. That's a pity. I thought this was an equally good read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Everything But the Title!
Thank God Joseph Heller kept writing after Catch 22! - at least so that Picture This could get written - the ONLY drawback about this book being its TITLE!! This book is just what critics say -spellbinding. As well you get a firsthand feeling of who Rembrandt is in his time and place - which is made totally relevant to present time time and place as well as Greek time and place centuries prior - very zen! But the title is not very zen it does not do justice to this story. Heller had a story to tell and it is a mind blower that keeps on giving! But he honestly does not seem to know what to CALL this or his other works after Catch 22(which was a great title oddly enough!)

4-0 out of 5 stars Very funny really
Joseph Heller has been compared to Mark Twain and rightfully so. Like Twain, Heller has a sharp sense of humor and can easily point out the foibles of mankind. If you are looking for a modern novel with well developed characters and a plot- look elswhere. If you think you know anything at all about Rembrandt or life in the 17th century, then try this one on for size.
Heller's paints a picture of Rembrandt (and Aristotle) that makes them so human you can laugh out loud at them, and you will.

5-0 out of 5 stars Maybe his best?
Would it be some kind of sacrilige to say that this is a better piece of writing than Catch-22 ? Catch-22 is a superior emotional and autobiographical work, for sure; it is his "best" because of how closely it pulls readers through the dark comedy of warfare, which Heller experienced firsthand. But Heller's particular brand of wit comes through in a different way here, and proves his mettle as a writer, and not just as someone who came back from WWII with a "story to tell." The soul of this book is a political one, but the generosity Heller shows his characters -- who just happen to be Rembrandt and Aristotle -- is wonderful. Catch-22 is immersed in the "present" in that wartime is all about surviving hour-by-hour; what's neat about Picture This is how it looks at democracy and capitalism as they have existed for centuries: Socrates was put to death for "corrupting the youth" long before the NSA turned the U.S. into a police state; likewise the Dutch found out what a mess capitalism was hundreds of years before Wall Street. The genius of this book is in that Heller never really explicitly points a finger at modern states, but just points at the trail of dead they've left over thousands of years. Heller pulls art and history through the lens of capitalism & corruption, and he's deadpan-funny while he does it. Also helping the cause: the last few lines of this book are my favorite ending to any novel, ever.

1-0 out of 5 stars A vast disappointment
There are a lot of things I did expect when starting that "novel".A plot was one of them, some of the famous Heller wit another (this book really is unfunny, but keeps winking at you as if you're just a tiny little bit away from getting some cosmic joke it really is about). I didn't expect to be treated to a 326 page long variation of Larry King's obnoxious observations in USA Today, set in ancient Greece and Holland of the 16th/17th century. The chronology is totally mucked up, it seems not because of some artitistic reason, but because it was cobbled together without any sense of structure.

Finally, an author who seriously suggests that some of the dutch provinces are perhaps not even known to many INSIDE the Netherlands (hey Joe: this isn't the US you're writing about) doesn' instill too much confidence about getting his other facts right.

One of the few books in my life I didn't finish (maybe the second half is a LOT better). ... Read more

6. Closing Time: The Sequel to Catch-22
by Joseph Heller
Paperback: 464 Pages (1995-09-15)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$4.06
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684804506
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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More than three decades after Catch-22 captured the conscience and imagination of a generation, Joseph Heller has written the sequel to one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. Closing Time revisits Yossarian, Milo Minderbinder, Chaplain Tappman and others -- the characters who made Catch-22 unforgettable, now older, if not wiser, facing not only the end of a century, but the approaching close of their lives. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (53)

3-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Catch-22 being one of the all-time great novels, attempting a worthy sequel is not only nearly impossible but arguably perverse. Joseph Heller seems to have known this, waiting 33 years to publish one with 4 intervening books. Closing Time, the eventual sequel, disappoints as both follow-up and standalone. Only diehard Hellerians need read it.

It is perhaps unfair to compare Closing, Heller's penultimate book published when he was in his 70s, to his debut masterpiece, but he of course invites it himself - at least ostensibly. This was good marketing strategy, but the text itself is hardly a sequel in any traditional sense. The few surviving characters appear:Yossarian and Milo quite prominently with the Chaplain somewhat less so, while the minor Sammy is now a major player. However, they are in their late 60s in peacetime New York, and flashbacks are relatively few. The lack of a war setting gives a very different feel, though personality traits are still present, which will at least partly delight fans of their first appearances. Several new characters are at any rate at least as prominent. Events left hanging at Catch's end are hardly touched on and intervening years only sketched. Anyone hoping for anything like a straight continuation will thus be very let down.

Even if one does not consider this a problem, other things certainly are. For starters, Heller's trademark humor is hardly present. I laughed aloud at Catch innumerable times and to a lesser extent with his other books, but this has only a few such scenes. There are a few tries at replicating Catch's humor, especially in dialogue, but they fall almost entirely flat. Other attempts to invoke Catch are equally uninspired and, what is worse, patently contrived. Heller even comes dangerously close to self-parody by using the phrase "Catch-22" in an ostensibly outside context as well as the famous slogan "Yossarian Lives." Some may also question his decision to make himself and long-time friend and fellow writer Kurt Vonnegut characters, but it is somewhat better done.

Perhaps it is best not to see Closing as a sequel so much as a Heller book that happens to have a few Catch characters. It probably should have been marketed thus; expectations would have been lower, and fewer people would be disappointed. Late in life, an interviewer - quite unfairly - pointed out that Heller had never written anything else as good as Catch; he wittily - and quite truly - shot back, "Who has?" It would be unrealistic to expect this to be as good, but it pales even by his overall standard; I have read Heller's intervening books except Picture This, and Closing is by far the weakest.

Let us, then, judge Closing as a standalone. In this light it improves somewhat but is still below Heller's high average. It is set in an important time in American and world history, which is easier to appreciate now than then - the early 1990s just after the Cold War. The New World Order was just beginning, and few artists were better equipped to tackle it. Heller wisely - perhaps inevitably - describes it from a perspective very similar to his own, that of the aging Greatest Generation. Here he does two important things. First, he laments that generation's decline and imminent death. Nearly the whole book has a highly elegiac feel, which is the main reason it is so humorless; Catch may have been black humor, but this is basically just black. We see representative characters deal with aging and mortality in a way that is often moving and occasionally thought-provoking. Second, and perhaps more importantly, we see them yearn almost pathetically for the better world of their youth - the war, yes, but mostly the golden era before it. Heller clearly held this view and relays it with great sympathy and verisimilitude; much of Closing is indeed autobiographical. Many of his themes are also very valid and well-done:urban decay, out of control capitalism, stupidity in politics, painful generation gaps, etc. It is easy to dismiss this aspect as typical curmudgeonism, but Heller's honesty and openness are refreshing and appealing, though it is hard not to wish that he wielded his usual satirical axe more than this basically typical and heavier-handed one. The sharpest satire is directed at politics - a subject that certainly calls for it, and the thinly-veiled Dan Quayle attack is devastating. However, Heller's far better Good as Gold undercuts politics more meaningfully and entertainingly. As for Quayle, he is an easy target hardly even worth the exercise of Heller's talent - and, as the book was released when he was out of office, perhaps would have been better off left alone.

Perhaps the real problem is lack of structure. Heller was never a tight writer in the strict sense, and Closing is all the better for it, but here he often seems to have lost focus altogether. Simply put, the book lacks plot, cohesion, and conclusion. The two main storylines - one involving Catch characters and one basically not - do not really coalesce and hardly intersect. It is almost as if Heller wrote the non-Catch-related parts and decided to throw the others in; if I did not respect him so much for his other work, I would assume he did so for easy money. The non-Catch-related parts are certainly stronger; the book would have been significantly better if they dominated - or were alone. Some other detours are even less enchanting, and two are near-disastrous:the quasi-hell segments that add little or nothing but confusion and are never resolved; and the long wedding section that is supposed to be the climax but really only bores. The ending - or lack of one - is also unsatisfactory.

All told, only those who must read everything by Heller should bother. Those in love with Catch would be far better off reading his excellent other novels - preferably chronologically, as each seems not quite as good as the prior. Certainly no one should skip from Catch to this. Indeed, though as a fan I hate to say it, those wanting a true sequel would be better off not reading this; it does not spoil Catch but leaves a bit of a proverbial bad taste that those who rightly love the original will be better off without. Others must decide if it is worth their time, but I cannot recommend it.

3-0 out of 5 stars Catch-22 Review
Catch 22
By Joseph Heller
Fiction Novel. 464 pp.
Simon and Schuster. $10.88

By John

Catch-22 is a story of an Air Corp bombardier who is resistant to fly the ever increasing number of combat missions. Heller attempts to show the side of the "war heroes" that isn't often seen in a humorous and interesting way.
Joseph Heller, a novelist and playwright, also wrote two other books called Something Happened and Closing Time. One play he wrote was called We Bombed in New Haven, which debuted on Broadway in 1969. He also taught creative writing at the City College of New York.
I believe that Joseph Heller accomplishes his goal by writing in a way that you would usually see in a historical fiction book. He writes a story that is interesting and mildly attention-grabbing at times . While being humorous it can also repeat itself and confuses its reader. I think he accomplished his goal of showing a side of soldiers that is hidden from most of the civilians of the world. He shows that some soldiers will defy their commanding officers and take a cowardly way out of their orders.
Heller shows how some things in war can be funny and not so serious. While offering humorous implications he can confuse the reader and often repeats himself throughout the book. However, he offers twist and turns in the plot, which makes the story interesting and not mundane.

3-0 out of 5 stars Specter of the Past
Although the Yossarian, Milo Minderbinder, Chaplain Albert Tappman, and others return from "Catch-22", this book certainly does not possess the soul of the previous book. Sequels are difficult to pen, so writing this book was not an enviable task. Yet aside from a few glimmering moments, "Closing Time" is as tired and worn-out as the World War II veterans in its pages.

The charm of mocking warfare that made "Catch-22" a hit is sparsely revisited in the book. Instead, the World War II veterans endure the 1990's with failing health, sexual vigor, and even delusions of reality. Class society is mocked in the elaborate wedding at a bus terminal, while the presidency is satirized in a form far inferior to Heller's "Good as Gold". Even when war is revisited, it is only in a ghostly manner. Perhaps the most interesting predicament is the Chaplain's passing of heavy water. This would seem to be comic gold, though Heller never seems to follow through with it.

Unfortunately, Heller only seemed to be filling pages in an attempt to extend the lives of his best characters in "Closing Time". The charm that made "Catch-22" one of the great works of the 20th Century evaporated before the story of "Closing Time" makes its half way point. One might argue that Heller should have never attempted this endeavor.

1-0 out of 5 stars An unfortune novel
Maybe it's because I loved 'Catch-22' so much, but this novel was nothing but a disappointment.This book would be poor as a stand alone work; as a sequel to the ground-breaking original, it's dreadful.We're presented with an older Yossarian, Chaplain and Milo, with no mention of what happened at the end of Catch-22.Readers are not told how Yossarian escaped from Italy, or his further adventures. The book varies between a dull pondering of the significance of war and an ill-advised turn to science fiction/fantasy.The plot revolves around a new US president who is a clear parody of former VP Dan Quayle.Since Quayle was a political non-entity by the time the book came out, 'Closing Time' became instantly dated.I would not recommend this for fans of 'Catch-22', or to anyone for that matter.

1-0 out of 5 stars Painful. Terrible. An absolute mess
I just finished this book. Damn. What a mess. I think the title for my review says it all. Probably, one of the worst books I have ever read. ... Read more

7. Catch As Catch Can: The Collected Stories and Other Writings
by Joseph Heller
Paperback: 352 Pages (2004-03-02)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$0.01
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743257936
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Years before the publication of Catch-22 ("A monumental artifact of contemporary literature" -- The New York Times; "An apocalyptic masterpiece" -- The Chicago Sun-Times; "One of the most bitterly funny works in the language" -- The New Republic), Joseph Heller began sharpening his skills as a writer, searching for the voice that would best express his own peculiarly wry view of the world.

In Catch As Catch Can, editors Matthew J. Bruccoli and Park Bucker have for the first time collected the short stories Heller published prior to that first novel, along with all the other short pieces of fiction and nonfiction that were published during his lifetime. Also included are five previously unpublished short stories, most reflecting the influence on Heller of urban naturalist writers such as Irwin Shaw and Nelson Algren.

The result is an important and significant addition to our understanding and appreciation of Joseph Heller, showing his evolution as a writer and artist. For those unfamiliar with his work, it will serve as an excellent introduction; for everyone else, Catch As Catch Can is a chance to explore a new aspect of Heller's remarkable career.Amazon.com Review
With his first book, the seminal anti-war novel Catch-22, Joseph Heller became one of American literature's most important 20th-century writers. The posthumous collection, Catch As Catch Can: The Collected Stories and Other Writings, shows Heller's early development as a writer, but in essence provides the "outtakes," "B-sides," and sketches related to Catch-22, and several nonfiction pieces regarding it, mixed with juvenilia. A more appropriate title might have been The Making of Catch-22.

Heller's early forays into fiction are somewhat memorable, such as "The Girl from Greenwich," a story about vanity, and "A Man Named Flute," wherein a father deals with the discovery of his son's drug use. Also, "World Full of Great Cities" is a disturbing look at what a couple might do to save their marriage. This collection, however, contains a great many works that revolve around Catch-22, or contain characters that appear in that work, including two chapters cut from the novel and published as independent stories: "Love, Dad" and "Yossarian Survives." Not surprisingly, these are the strongest works in the book. "Love, Dad" provides the first introduction to Edward J. Nately III, who "was often lonely and nagged by vague, incipient longings. He contemplated his sophomore year at Harvard without enthusiasm, without joy. Fortunately, the War broke out in time to save him." Joseph Heller will be known forever for his great novel, Catch-22, and Catch As Catch Can serves to back up this notion. --Michael Ferch ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great collection!
I love Joseph Heller's work and these stories are great. A lot of supplemental material for his infamous Catch-22 as well. I highly reccomend the book to anyone who likes clever and meaningful stories.

1-0 out of 5 stars Ugh
If there's ever been a greater example of a single author milking a single bit of work more than Joseph Heller I don't want to read him. It's been years since I read his classic Catch-22 satire of the Army during World War Two- although I aim to read it again within the year- and it was a good book, to my best recollection. But, my word, give it a rest.The whole of Catch As Catch Can: The Collected Stories And Other Writings is a virtual homage to Heller's most well-known book. Not even J.D. Salinger has sucked the life out of his The Catcher In The Rye like Heller has Catch-22. This book is divided into five parts- thirteen previously published stories, five previously unpublished stories, a play- Clevinger's Trial- based upon Catch-22, a four piece non-fiction section called On Catch-22, and a single Recollection called Coney Island: The Fun Is Over. The recollection has moments, the only worthwhile thing in the On Catch-22 section is Joseph Heller Talks About Catch-22, in which the process of bringing book to film screen is engaged, and the two fiction sections amply demonstrate Heller's limited range as a fictionist. It's almost as if his obsession with his one hit is because he knows this mostly banal and dull collection is the best of the rest of what he had to offer.Of the tales, there are no real standouts, no stories that are unforgettable, and most read like third rate John O'Hara. They are also very dated, and at best they reach mere competence.... The question I have is why such a piss-poor collection of B Side rot was ever released? Editors Matthew J. Bruccoli and Park Bucker state that the texts of the works in this book are unaltered because writers who have died cannot approve changes. I would submit that Heller probably knew the little literary quality these works had, so therefore never wanted to see them hit print, and would probably have been angered that four years after his death in 1999 this tripe was published. Fortunately, I paid under $5 for this new hardback version at Half Price Books. Don't you pay a dime, unless you are just so devoted to every little fart and idea Heller had about his most famous work. Give the man his due- Catch-22, the phrase and novel, will be around as long as military and bureaucratic stupidity is, but this collection should never have seen print, for its existence only reinforces that claim with dramatically depressing conviction. Lesson learned: let the dead rest, in their graves and on their laurels.

5-0 out of 5 stars Catch Heller Rising to Literary Greatness
Joseph Heller is famous for bringing the phrase catch-22 into the popular lexicon with his best-selling first novel, "Catch-22." However, Heller did write short stories before his novel days began.Well-crafted short stories - five never before published - a play and non-fiction writings by Heller comprise this posthumously published book thanks to the editing of Matthew J. Bruccoli of the University of South Carolina and Park Brucker.

"Catch as Catch Can" is a delicious treat for "Catch-22" fans who desire more of Heller's black comedy since a third of the book concerns itself with the novel, "Catch-22.""Yossarian Survives," a small chapter originally deleted from "Catch-22," contains the irresistibly funny lines, "Don't just lie there while you're waiting for the ambulance.Do push ups."

But what really makes this collection interesting, especially for aspiring writers, is "observing Joseph Heller's apprenticeship."Heller's first published short story, "I Don't Love You Any More," dates from 1945 and is about a military man returning from WWII who decides he is not in love with his wife anymore.This short story and many other early ones lack Heller's satirical voice perfected in his novels.There are hints of the biting humor, but the reader can clearly sense Heller is struggling for his own voice.Heller in fact writes, "there wasn't much distinctive about all but two or three of the stories I was writing at this time.I now wanted to be new . . . Original." Bruccoli and Brucker write, "Not until `MacAdam's Log' (`Gentlemen's Quarterly', 1959) did Heller break through the conventional magazine formula." "Catch as Catch Can" allows us to catch Heller's progression from stock short-story writer to literary genius.

Bohdan Kot

5-0 out of 5 stars A cache of gems
Few novels impart the sense of the 1960s as did Heller's "Catch-22".It might be considered the guidebook for the movement to end the fallacy of the United States' involvement in Viet Nam.So abrupt was Heller's rise to prominence with that novel that his previous work was nearly lost to view.This collection restores somewhat our sense of how Heller developed as a writer.From the time of his discharge from the Air Force to "Catch-22" eight short stories were published.That they faded from perception can best be attributed to the blazing popularity of the novel and the social upheaval occuring during the ensuing years.

The editors have gleaned this collection from among Heller's published and unpublished works ranging from 1945 to 1990.This anthology is a mix of fiction and social essays, giving us a good insight into Heller's experiences, thinking and writing skills.The latter are particularly demonstrated in their growth from his early stories through his descriptions of "Catch-22" in its writing and filming.The stories and essays are grouped into those published and those left unseen.There is also the one-act play derived from a character in "Catch-22", "Clevinger's Trial".The play is highly derivative of Heller's view of military procedures and "justice" in assessing its own.Given that, however, little of the novel's spirited style is exhibited here.Excellent narrative style, but little of the incisive wit is displayed.Those who have read "Catch-22" might be led to believe this is not the same writer.

The editors open with excerpts from "Now and Then" in which Heller credits writings of the "urban school" of William Saroyan, Irwin Shaw and Studs Lonigan.There is little doubt, however, that Heller was his "own man" when he wrote, as this collection verifies.From the opening story of a returning soldier's homecoming, through a sequence of tales about New York characters, Heller transmits his ability to record human foibles.The stories are intense and compelling, not the least of which is the life of an addict.In "A Man Named Flute", Heller acknowledges the concern of parents during the post-war years when the drug trade entered an expansionary phase.Among my favourite pieces is the imaginary resignation of George Bush from the Presidency - and that's the first one!

Yossarian, that incomparable survivor from "Catch-22" returns to these pages still struggling to stave off the inevitable.Also inevitable is to compare Yossarian with Heller.Heller's penetrating eye and scathing pen are vividly present in "Yossarian Survives" as well as in the play.He also turns his gaze on the site of his former Corsican airfield in "Catch-22 Revisited" and in depicting the making of the film.He also recapitulates his career as a bombardier in the Mediterranean.

This is a fine collection from a leading American author.Those enamoured of the short story format will be amply rewarded by adding this anthology to their collection.Heller is lamentably gone, and his replacement has yet to appear.[stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

4-0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Reading
As a fan or Mr. Heller's books (especially Catch-22) I found his early writing very interesting.The short stories in this book vary from excellant to very under developed.Important to note that when he was an undergraduate, some of these stories where accepted by The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly.Today, if a student reached those lofty heights they would be in very very rare company.

Early in the book the short stories are more serious less humorous than you would expect from Heller.They are more along the line of what you would find when reading Dubus or Carver. As you progress there are stories written involving Catch-22 characters (Nately, Yossarian) that take place after the war, after Catch-22.

The book then moves to pieces written during the early 1990's at he time of George H. Bush's administration.These pieces are biting satires in regards to our former president and his political stands.

One will also find within the pages, a re-printed lecture Heller gave regarding Catch-22.

As you can see, the book was constructive post-mortem and has the feel of work randomly inserted.It's difficult to get into the flow for a long literary sitting.For example, once I became involved and settled in his short work, the book took me to other well-written places, but places I was not ready for. ... Read more

8. Catch-22
by Joseph Heller
Paperback: 464 Pages (1996-09-04)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$4.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684833395
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Catch-22 is like no other novel. It is one of the funniest books ever written, a keystone work in American literature, and even added a new term to the dictionary.

At the heart of Catch-22 resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war. His efforts are perfectly understandable because as he furiously scrambles, thousands of people he hasn't even met are trying to kill him. His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions that he is committed to flying, he is trapped by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, the hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule from which the book takes its title: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he is sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

Catch-22 is a microcosm of the twentieth-century world as it might look to some one dangerously sane -- a masterpiece of our time.Amazon.com Review
There was a time when reading Joseph Heller's classic satire on the murderous insanityof war was nothing less than a rite of passage. Echoes of Yossarian, thewise-ass bombardier who was too smart to die but not smart enough to find a way out ofhis predicament, could be heard throughout the counterculture. As a result,it's impossible not to consider Catch-22 to be something of a period piece. But 40 years on, the novel'sundiminished strength is its looking-glass logic. Again and again, Heller'scharacters demonstrate that what is commonly held to be good, is bad;what is sensible, is nonsense.

Yossarian says, "You're talking about winning the war, and I am talkingabout winning the war and keeping alive."
"Exactly," Clevinger snapped smugly. "And which do you think is moreimportant?"
"To whom?" Yossarian shot back. "It doesn't make a damn bit of difference whowins the war to someone who's dead."
"I can't think of another attitude that could be depended upon to give greatercomfort to the enemy."
"The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, "is anybody who'sgoing to get you killed, no matter which side he's on."
Mirabile dictu, the book holds up post-Reagan, post-Gulf War. It's a goodthing, too. As long as there's a military, that engine of lethal authority,Catch-22 will shine as a handbook for smart-alecky pacifists. It's an utterlyserious and sad, but damn funny book. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (885)

4-0 out of 5 stars Great book. I really enjoyed it.
This book came highly recommended and I was not disappointed. Catch-22is weird, mixed up, irrational and bewildering, but totally sane. Some parts provoked thought, some parts provoked confusion, some parts provoked laughter, all parts were entertaining. I absolutely recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars The funniest book I have ever read
Catch-22 is the funniest book I have ever picked up. Joseph Heller has to be one of the greatest wits in literature history. The story of Yossarian the pilot who simply wants to live works on so many different levels. In the end the book transcends simply being comedy, it uses humor to pack a helluva moral punch that absolutely reduces the blindness of war, the slavish devotion to government to total ruin. By the end of the book the illogical nature of war is so clear that it's a wonder the UN hasn't declared war illegal and a crime. The dialogue is incredibly clever and the characters so unique and colorful. On of my favorite parts is the scene where General Dreedle at first wants the chaplain to hang out in the bar ("So that he can sympathize with the men and gain their trust. How else are they going to believe in God?") but in the next breath says, "That's a fine thing, a man of God hanging out with a bunch of drunks and losers." And ends up threatening to have the chaplain taken outside and shot. Most of the humor fallows this same pattern, proving over and over again the illogical, contradictory, and insane nature of the military and of war. Or how about Milo and the syndacite? Milo plays both sides of every conflict and ends of funding an enemy bombing of his own batallion...There are better reviews on here and I could go on and on but this book literally blew me over with its powerful message and savagely satirical humor.

3-0 out of 5 stars Well done, but much too true to be funny
A true story:
Some time ago, I was in the Marine Corps, scheduled for a deployment in Iraq.After six months of maddeningly boring pre-deployment "training", I had become somewhat scornful and skeptical of, not to mention endlessly disappointed, frustrated and disillusioned with, the military.All of this had me extremely depressed.
During the few days of leave (just a few days; military policy is to give two weeks of leave, but we only got five days, and this is just one of the ways they screwed my unit over) between the end of the "training" and the movement to Iraq, I went to visit my brother.
During thee visit we happened to pass a bookstore, and he offered to buy me a copy of Catch-22.He thought I might identify with it.I replied that I was sure I would.I'd heard of the book, of course, but never read it, and figured that if it was as ingeniously satirical as everyone said, reading it at that point in my life might just drive me over the edge.I was afraid it would hit too close to home, and so I refused his generosity.
I went to Iraq, which turned out to be even more maddening than the "training", stayed there for five months without incident, returned home and retired from the service just as soon as I could.And then I read Catch-22.
As I was safely retired at that point, it didn't hit particularly close to home.It's well-written, and very effective in making its point.Unfortunately for me (and for any reader who has first-hand experience with the military) it's the most obvious point possible, and so most of the book's humor and absolutely all of its shock value are completely lost.
In many instances the book is simply too true to be funny.There's hardly anything in it that didn't sound exactly like real life to me.Time after time, my reaction to the various absurd incidents of bureaucratic inertia, institutional asininity, and higher-up incompetence was a simple shrug. I'd seen it all myself, so why should Heller's fictive recounting of it seem like a revelation?

4-0 out of 5 stars messy masterpiece
So yes, the book can read a bit messy. It does take some acclimation, but it is more than worth the work (for some people, such a style makes perfect sense and would give such a book 10 stars if possible). However, if you are not one of thee latter folks, hang with it, and you will be stuck with a brilliant piece of writing that will haunt you for a very long time. This book has staying power, and that's what may make it something of a masterpiece (albeit a messy one).

5-0 out of 5 stars As advertised. Highly recommended.
Ordered this used book from this seller and the condition of the book exceeded the description. This is a great way to buy Everyman's Library titles if you're looking to cut costs. ... Read more

9. Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man : A Novel
by Joseph Heller
Paperback: 240 Pages (2001-07-17)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$0.01
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743202015
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Imagine that the novelist -- his name here is Eugene Pota -- realizes that the days are dwindling and he needs to come up with one more novel.But what should he write? That first novel, the one that launched him, the one that made him into the cultural icon he seems fated to remain, has become a touchstone for his life, and his life since has pretty much been a critical failure. And now, when he is faced with the compulsion to write one more novel, to take a stab at the even bigger one, what should it be?

Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man follows the journey that Eugene Pota undertakes as he sifts through the detritus of his life in an effort to settle on a subject for his final work. He talks to everyone, including his wife, his old lovers, and his editor. While everyone has ideas, no one offers any real answers. Written with sections that alternate between Pota's real-life efforts to settle on what novel to write and his many and various false starts writing that novel, Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man is a rare and enthralling look into the artist's search for creativity.Amazon.com Review
"This author was determined," says the apparently autobiographical narratorof Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. "He often appropriated ashis own personal infirmity the concluding words of the unnameable voice inSamuel Beckett's TheUnnameable, 'I must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on.'" And on hislast day on Earth, Joseph Heller was still polishing this, his last andstrangest novel. It is essentially an essay about a writer who's exactly likehim--old and stuck for an idea for his next book. Seekinginspiration, he chats with his wife, his editors, and his friends, andfloats one high-concept scheme after another.

How about a novel about the gangsters who ran Coney Island, the enchantedland of his childhood? Nah, too much plot to concoct. Perhaps he couldupdate a classic: TomSawyer as a Harvard MBA, or Kafka's The Metamorphosistransposed to Manhattan. When these don't pan out, Heller takes a stab atmythology, done in the manner of his old pal Mel Brooks. Here Zeus's wifecomplains about his flagging ardor:

I try to put myself in Leda's place. It could be kind of thrilling, Iguess, being overpowered by a huge male swan, especially after realizing itwas Zeus.... I'd like to see him take the trouble to surprise me like that,even once. But that doesn't happen. He won't waste tricks like that on me.He never does, he knows he doesn't have to. When he comes to me it's neverwith anything new, it's always just the same, always just the same old god.
Increasingly desperate, the author tries out titles on his friends,and A Sexual Biography of My Wife stirs some interest. Still, histentative fictions don't grab you the way the novel's sad, searingreminiscences do. When Heller--I mean, the narrator--has a tearful reunionwith his adulterous old flame (who's now stricken with Lou Gehrig'sdisease), or asks another female acquaintance whether she regrets turningdown his long-ago offer of romance, we get a privileged glimpse into theprivate mind of a very public author. "I want to cap my career with amasterpiece of some kind," the narrator tells his editor. This poignantlydiscursive book is not a masterpiece, but Joseph Heller did go on trying tothe end. --Tim Appelo ... Read more

Customer Reviews (20)

4-0 out of 5 stars Comical and Worthwhile
The final book in the career of Joseph Heller is a fine tale. The protagonists plight is having to live up to past glory. Eugene Pota is trying in his twilight years to write a novel that will appeal to the masses and "be a Hollywood movie". Pota's career began with great acclaim and success, but he subsequent novels have fallen into the category of good or "not one of his best". As he flips back an forth from writing this novel to complaining about not being able to write it and just living you can get lost in the action. The book so closely parallels what one would believe to be Hellers own career. Catch-22 to ... well, everything else, books that may have been best sellers, but no one remembers now, unless you are a fan of Heller. These closes parallels tend haze parts of the novel, however it all comes together on the last page, it makes you wonder if this was a narration of what Heller himself went through to write this, his last novel. I found the book to be fast paced, comical and memorable. A fine way to spend an evening or two.


5-0 out of 5 stars What a way to go!
Ah! What a way to go! Joseph Heller's final novel is a comfortable fit, brilliantly conceived and finely executed. It delivers the finishing flourish he clearly desired, and pays homage to other writers he had known or admired. (Heller checked out in 1999.) The story line follows an aging novelist, Eugene Pota, struggling to find his next big idea. At the end of a career which began brilliantly (with a first novel that swept the world of both critics and readers, and became an enduringly popular movie), Pota's subsequent work has been good and happily received, but inevitably disappointing. Heller turns the autobiographical nature of this tale to excellent advantage, occasionally using the plural pronoun "we" to speak for both the fictive and the actual author. Many of the chapters comprise false starts -- the first few triumphant pages of Pota's attempted new book, which soon peter out. Heller casually uses "Catch-22," the idea he added to our lexicon, having fun with both its catchet and the wonder of his fortune. His attempts to modernize Twain, Kafka and Greek mythology provide opportunity to comment on storytellers through the centuries. Pota's lecture at a university in South Carolina, and Tom Sawyer's imagined search for a literary tutor, occasion disturbing looks at the pantheon of successful authors in the 19th and 20th Centuries. The high incidence of alcoholism, drug dependence, depression and suicide is striking. Few financially successful writers maintain fiscal stability for long, and more than a few have wound up destitute. As he observes, "It is almost enough to chill the heart of a parent whose child declares the wish to seek a career as an author!"Closing the book after reading the well-wrought conclusion, I saw my own reflection between the words in the shiny library cover which did nothing to lighten my introspection. "At least," I told my winking self, "You don't have the albatross of early success strung 'round your neck." If this is not Heller at his slam-dunk peak, it is still a masterful work by a craftsman of the first rank.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Subtle Parody
What people dont notice about this book is that it is a parody of James Joyce's classic, cryptic, boring,(and laborious) masterpiece "A Portrait of the Artist of the Young Man" Knowing that makes the book even funnier, especially if you've "read" Joyce's book. Not only does the Heller's novel show how Pota is trying to write a new story, it takes some of its cues from Joyce's style. Without reading Joyce's novel one can't understand lines like "This book length parody of the quintessential pop novel "Tom Sawyer"...was definitely going to forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of the world, or his race, whatever" That is by far the funniest line in the book but is only funny to people who have read Joyce. Totaly recommend

5-0 out of 5 stars A Still Life
As the twilight of his life approaches, Eugene Pota, legendary author, is trying to wrestle one last, great novel out of his head and onto the page.Yet everything he tries isn't good enough - not anything that would sell and possibly make him some movie money, or recapture his earlies success.That is the premise for Joseph Heller's last book, "Portrait Of An Artist, As An Old Man", an author's journey to finish one last novel before he (and possibly his legend) dies.

Eugene Pota is suffering from severe writer's block.His best ideas have been used up in previous works; his most imaginary and catchy sentences have been used by other authors.He has no where left to turn except to other masterful works and try to rework them from a modern viewpoint.And overwhelmingly he comes to the conclusion that he has lost his touch.Readers follow his struggling journey through draft after draft of stories that will never be, a "literature of despair" that Pota recognizes in many famous authors whose final years were marked with misery and neglect, their literary star burned out.

Joseph Heller has done a remarkable job at opening up a writer's world to a world of readers.As readers follow Pota on his quest for one last great idea, they struggle as he searches for that creativity that forever eludes him.Heller intersperses Pota's efforts with witty ponderments about famous authors, a treasure trove of trivia and homage for any bibliophile to love.Heller's trademark humor in place, he makes Pota's impossible quest poignant, quirky and deeply realisitc.

5-0 out of 5 stars Lament in Old Age
Joseph Heller was indecisive about what his final great work should be.He explored many different avenues, but still found himself indecisive.Through the character Eugene Pota, "Pota" being an acronym for Portrait of an Artist, Heller explores the journey to his final novel.While this is not as critically acclaimed as some of Heller's others works, it is one of the best books I have read this year.

Many of the great authors found their lives ending in loneliness and tragedy.Knowing this, Pota sought to end his career with one last great novel.Ideally this book would be so successful that he could explore a movie option. Along the way to this new novel, he pays homage to many tragic authors such as Mark Twain, Franz Kafka, Jack London, and many others.With the biting humor of Joseph Heller, Pota begins writing a literary idea in the book only to rip it to shreds a few pages later.The book is written with sections that alternate between the life of Eugene Pota and Heller's real-life efforts to settle on a novel to write.

Well-read individuals will enjoy this book tremendously.Those that have enjoyed Heller's humor in his other works will certainly embrace his more obscure final work.This book is a wonderful little gem. ... Read more

10. No Laughing Matter
by Joseph & Vogel, Speed Heller
 Unknown Binding: Pages (1987-01-01)

Asin: B003X6ABFW
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars No Laughing Matter
This book is good it jumps around a little to much between chapters from Joseph Heller who had GBS in the early 80's and Speed Vogel his friend that really helped take care of allot of the things Joe couldn't take care of.It gives both meets perspectives.There was allot of good information obtained from the book and there was also some humor even though this is a bad situation to be in...I did benefit from reading this book.I have a friend who has GBS and I wanted to better understand how he and some others have recovered from it....

5-0 out of 5 stars A funny look at Guillain-Barre syndrome
Heller was one of my all-time favorite writers, and his books never disappointed me.This book, written with his good friend Speed Vogel, is a description of Heller's medical ordeal.

Heller had Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is like a temporary form of polio.The muscles in his body shut down leaving him paralyzed.Eventually, the muscles started to work again, but he had to go through a long, difficult rehab process.He had to learn to do everything he had done without thinking about it before he got sick.Vogel helped him through the process and they decided to write this book to describe the whole ordeal.

The book is full of funny stories of these two men, and their other friends.It was great to see that he kept his amazing sense of humor throughout his illness.If you've enjoyed any of his other books, you should get a big kick out of this one too.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good as Gold
Not exactly a laughing matter, but certainly one presented with plenty of humor. Author Joseph Heller developed a nerve disease called Guillain-Barre after years of seeming good health, and later wrote a book (coauthored by his pal Speed Vogel) chronicling his declining health and his fight back to semi-normality.

It was a day like any other, just before getting a divorce and starting a new novel (which became "God Knows"). But Joseph Heller found that his food tasted funny, his body felt abnormally heavy, and he was having problems putting on and removing clothing. He checked into a hotel, and sure enough -- he had had a problem. What's more, he had a nerve disease called Guillain-Barre, which could cause permanent paralysis.

While his mind remained sharp and unusually witty, Heller's body became paralyzed. His pals Speed Vogel, Mario Puzo (of "Godfather" fame), Dustin Hoffman and Mel Brooks all clustered around to help their friend as he began to regain control of his life.

The account is funny and kooky, full of eccentric people like Puzo and Brooks. But there are deeper undercurrents in "No Laughing Matter," in which the friends help keep Heller from sinking into a frenzy of displeasure and cabin fever. There are no gooey monologues about the power of love and friendship -- it would probably have made the authors gag, even if it didn't make the readers. But the accounts of an admittedly difficult-to-deal-with famous author being helped out, despite his eccentricity, is very touching.

There is a lot of serious content, with Heller's decline in health and the details of his time in the hospital. (Constantly lying in a hospital bed, mostly paralyzed, unable to grip a pen and with a tube in his nose) But he manages to give a funny spin to almost everything in the book, including his encounters with Valerie Humphrey, a beautiful nurse who became his second wife, and media-shy Mario Puzo telling him how lucky he was to be sick and paralyzed, since he wouldn't be require do interviews. Half the book is Speed Vogel's voice; he offers an alternate, somewhat humbler viewpoint. He also gives more entertaining anecdotes such as Mel Brooks painting his "SNORE! SNORE! SNORE!" message on the wall, or the lobster dinner, or just arguing with Joe about the thirty-person dinner.

Funnier and more heartwarming than most "disease diaries," this gives us two different viewpoints: The patient, and the loyal pal. Definitely an intriguing and interesting read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Warm, funny, scary and vivid all at the same time
NO LAUGHING MATTER is a very informative and entertaining piece of writing.Co-authored by Joseph Heller and Speed Vogel (who write alternating chapters) it details the effects of the rare debilitating affliction called Guillain-Barre syndrome.This autobiographical/biographical chronicle passes along a lot of information without once falling into obscure medical dullness.

Guillain-Barre is a disease that attacks the central nervous system, rendering the victim completely paralyzed.Although what Heller contracted was a mild form of the disorder, in an extreme case mentioned a patient was only able to move their eyes.Recovery is possible from this disease; if it's caught early enough, the patient can be hooked up to a respirator if need be and then slowly rehabilitated.NO LAUGHING MATTER is two stories.The first is that of Joseph Heller the patient who goes from being in (seemingly) perfect health to being utterly bedridden in a matter of days.The second part of the tale is told by Speed Vogel, a friend of Heller, who took care of virtually all of his financial, legal and personal obligations.

From reading some other reviews of the book, one might be under the impression that this is a light and fluffy feel-good story of friendship where one will be forced to read numerous passages on the deeper meanings of love and caring.People learning great life lessons by sacrificing much that they have purely in the name of camaraderie.Chicken soup for the soul and novocain for the brain.Fortunately, one couldn't be further from the truth.While the two authors obviously have a great fondness for each other, you won't find any obvious soliloquies on the healing power of friendship.What you will find are people who care a great deal, but aren't afraid to share a lot of good-natured abuse.While in sickness and on the road to recovery, this never feels false or sugarcoated.It's an honest account of what real friendships are made of.

Despite the title, much of the book is laugh out loud funny.Heller may have been bedridden but he didn't lose any of his trademark wit.Celebrity cameos of everyone from Dustin Hoffman to Mario Puzo to Mel Brooks help to liven up an already interesting narrative.Both authors have a warm and engaging style of writing that makes even the more incomprehensible medical jargon understandable.The jokes are great and serve also to counterpoint the feelings of desperation and of loneliness.

The book is extremely intriguing, though there are one or two sections that don't quite work.Heller was going through what appeared to be a fairly messy divorce and the legal proceedings got a little bit complicated.For a section, Heller even reproduces a few pages of the court transcripts in order to show his lawyer in the right.As justified as he may be in including these segments, they aren't nearly as interesting as the rest of the book and pale in comparison.

NO LAUGHING MATTER shows us illness from two viewpoints.From Vogel we see the outward appearance of the disease and its effect on Heller.From Heller we experience the sickness firsthand.It's a fascinating dual look at the nature of the affliction.Well worth a read.

3-0 out of 5 stars No Laughing Matter
NO LAUGHING MATTER has some great moments.In places Joseph Heller demonstrated his ability to be funny and touching at the same time.The book was a great inspiration to me at a time when I needed the help it gave me. As the author of SOLOMON'S PORCH, a novel about a man with CIDP, the slow version of Guillain Barre', I was fascinated with this book about Joe Heller and his caretakers.Most of the material that I have read about GBS and CIDP focuses almost exclusively on the patient, but Mr. Heller wrote every other chapter of this book and had his friend, who became one of his caretakers, write the alternate chapters. At the time I read NO LAUGHING MATTER, I was beginning to formulate SOLOMON'S PORCH in my mind.NLM gave me some good ideas about structure. ... Read more

Hardcover: Pages (1974)
-- used & new: US$19.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B001RXUTTG
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TITLE: SOMETHING HAPPENED By JOSEPH HELLER 1974 FIRST EDITIONAUTHOR: JOSEPH HELLERPUBLISHER - (LOCATION) /COPYRIGHT: ALFRED A. KNOPF, NY 1974EDITION: FIRST EDITION STATEDSIZE: 5 ½ x 8 ½ (approximately) PAGES: 569 pages This is the first trade edition of Heller's acclaimed second novel-his first after Catch-22. ... Read more

12. Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (Bloom's Guides)
Hardcover: 148 Pages (2009-01-30)
list price: US$30.00 -- used & new: US$19.80
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Asin: 1604132019
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13. Bodywise: An Introduction to Hellerwork for Regaining Flexibility and Well-Being
by Joseph Heller, William Henkin
Paperback: 272 Pages (2004-10-10)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$10.52
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 155643524X
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Bodywise is based on Joseph Heller's own brand of deep-tissue bodywork, which makes the connection between life issues and natural bodily alignment, and shows how to restore the body's natural balance. The book teaches readers how to regain control and become a full-time owner of their bodies. Part One explains the way the body works, in everyday life as well as in the structures of consciousness. Part Two takes the reader on a guided tour of the Hellerwork experience. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
One of the most edible books that has ever entertained my soul. I feel this is a must read for anyone curious about the human body, or anyone just looking for a good read. The book is more a novelty of human curiosity rather than a manual of anatomy or hellerwork of any sort (which is what I had in mind when i bought it) but I urge anyone and everyone to indulge.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Mind-Body Connection Explained
I learned a lot about my body from reading this book, especially why I get stuck.The connection between what I think or believe and how it manifests in my body couldn't be better explained.It was a real eye opener.I also enjoyed the practical suggestions for getting aligned and balanced, particularly undulation, one of my favorite exercises.

Anita Boser, author of Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation

5-0 out of 5 stars Worth exploring!...shows you how to become a full-time owner of your own body!
I own a lot of books on optimum brain performance as part of relentless seach for better understanding - & application - of peak performance technologies. I know very well that peak performance depends very much on the brain working in perfect harmony & close integration with the body. I therefore also own quite a lot of books about enhancing body performance.

This is one of them, which is also one of the few I always keep on my immediate shelf for quick reference.

Although it has been written essentially as an introduction to Hellerwork, I find the authors' intellectual work in creating the connection between life issues & natural bodily alignment very illuminating. Additionally, he shows how to restore the body's natural balance from the inside out.

Obviously both authors have profound understanding of the human body & its possibilities for maximum health & efficiency.

I did not realise that one of the authors (Joseph Heller) was an aerospace engineer by training until I read this book. This probably explains the logical structure & systematic layout of the various chapters as follows:

The Body in Everyday Life
The Body's Role in the Strcutures of Consciousness
The Plasticity of the Human Body

Introduction to Hellerwork
The Thoracic Cavity
Understanding or Standing on Your Own Two Feet
Reaching Out
Control & Surrender
Gut feelings or Let It All Hang Out
Holding Back
Losing Your Head
The Balancing Act
Integration & Coming Out

I only wish that there were more visual/graphic illustrations to go with the various chapters.

To me, the authors sum up the book very beautifully. Let me recap their exact words in the last chapter: "...Enlightenment is not something that ony happen when you meditate, chant your mantra, listen to your favourite piece of music: It is something that happens every day, in the way you move, relate to others, work, cook supper, brush your teeth. The challenge or purpose of life is to experience it as fully as possible at every moment. Your body is both vehicle & metaphor for your process: When the hologram is integrated with the being, the result is enlightenment."[The authors use the hologram, in an abstract sense, to represent the exact physical expression of a person's mind & spirit; in a concrete sense, any part of the body may be seen to reflect & contain everything there is to know about the whole body, just like a hologram.]

On the whole, the many ideas in this book are definitely worth exploring from the standpoint of becoming a full-time owner of your own body!

5-0 out of 5 stars Here is the Owner's Manual
If "God" had to equip us with an owner's manual for our bodies, this would be the book. This book is full of usefull information from cover to cover. I highley recommend it!

5-0 out of 5 stars Health isn't a Catch-22
All I can say is "Wow".I did not expect to get this kind of a workout from this book, it's really heavy. ... Read more

by Joseph Heller
 Hardcover: Pages (1984-01-01)

Asin: B0026XP482
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15. Joseph Heller (Twayne's United States Authors Series)
by Robert Merrill
 Hardcover: 153 Pages (1987-03)
list price: US$20.95
Isbn: 0805774920
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16. The Anti-Hero in the American Novel: From Joseph Heller to Kurt Vonnegut (American Literature Readings in the 21st Century)
by David Simmons
Hardcover: 216 Pages (2008-05-15)
list price: US$75.00 -- used & new: US$42.72
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0230603238
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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The Anti-Hero in the American Novel rereads major texts of the 1960s such as Catch-22, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and Slaughterhouse 5 to offer an innovative re-evaluation of a set of canonical novels that moves beyond entrenched post-modern and post-structural interpretations towards an appraisal which emphasizes the specifically humanist and idealist elements of these works, and in the process reasserts the important social impetus that lies behind them.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars The Anti-Hero in an academic context
Simmons provides an interesting analysis of the Anti-Hero and the American Counterculture of the 1960s. This book would be a useful resource for those studying either.

2-0 out of 5 stars Well-researched, but a painful read
I read this book out of a newly found personal interest in anti-heroes, generated from my Master's program in English and an idea I had for teaching anti-hero literature in my freshman-level high school English class.

Having recently finished this text, I found myself largely dissatisfied. Pros: The book was well-researched and gave me a few new things to think on. Cons: The writing was stodgy at best, and grounded so firmly in Camus and Marcuse that I found myself wondering if the author had any ideas of his own. I understand that this is the style of academia, but I think Simmons carried this style to the extreme, and ensured that his book had no appeal to anyone with a simple, casual interest in literature.

This is unfortunate, because I think the appeal of the anti-hero is growing in contemporary America, and taking a look at 1960's literature as a building block of this appeal would be a valuable exercise. But without any appeal or ease in the language use, this book will be relegated to dusty bookshelves, read only by the minute number of scholars studying American Literature.

In short, this book is best used as a graduate student torture device. ... Read more

17. Understanding Joseph Heller: Revised Edition (Understanding Contemporary American Literature)
by Sandford Pinsker
Paperback: 232 Pages (2009-08-20)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$24.94
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1570038406
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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To add a significant phrase to our language is no easy feat, but that is precisely what Joseph Heller (1923–1999) did with “catch-22,” the principle of absurdist logic and bureaucratic foul-up that energized his debut novel, Catch-22, in 1961. In this revised edition of Understanding Joseph Heller, Sanford Pinsker explores the idiosyncratic vision that permeates Heller’s complete body of work, as he maps the dark terrain Heller carved out, novel by novel, with considerable verbal dazzle and the uncompromising outrage of the classical satirist.

This updated edition includes new chapters on Closing Time, the sequel to Catch-22; Now and Then, Heller’s memoir of growing up in Brooklyn; Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man, his posthumously published novel; and Catch as Catch Can, a collection of assorted short stories and sketches. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars I Understand.
If Joseph Heller's life had to be put into a book, this would be it.This book can give you all the information you need to know about this complicated man with a twisted mind.It was extremely comprehensive and organized. ... Read more

18. Now and Then: A Memoir - From Coney Island to Here
by Joseph Heller
Paperback: 288 Pages (2004-03-01)
list price: US$16.50 -- used & new: US$0.01
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Asin: 0743240081
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Joseph Heller takes us on a fascinating journey back to his upbringing in a poor Jewish neighbourhood in Coney Island, through his World War II experiences as a bombardier in the American Air Force, to his life as an internationally acclaimed author. He tells of his tough upbringing during the Depression, and of the affection he retained for the kitsch, ragged, down market Coney Island of his youth. He describes, in intimate detail, his first love Luciana, and writes about the people and events, both tragic and hilarious, he was to translate into such memorable characters as Milo Minderbinder, The Chaplain, Major Major Major Major and the unforgettable Yossarian.In NOW AND THEN we are afforded a privileged insight into the mind of one of the twentieth century's greatest literary talents. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

3-0 out of 5 stars Heller , but
not like his novels, because this book is less edited--irrelevancies, parenthetical comments, asides, which slow down narrative. Masterful description of sights and sounds still there--characteristic of other New York writers, such as Breslin and Puzo-- but without ominousness of "Closing Time." Descriptions of Coney Island are superb; if he had grown up anywhere else, he and his life would have been very different. Has difficulty reading character in real life; describes one classmate as "an idealist;" T.S. Eliot told Donald Hall the same fellow was a shameless careerist for hounding widow Yeats for her husband's literary papers. Turns his contemporaties into rivals, unnecessarily.Subjects he avoids demonstrate Victorian propriety. Dislikes being an icon, despite seeking fame and writing for money. A romantic with a mystical streak who becomes nihilistic from disappointment--perfect for a post-war icon and truthful as far as it goes, which isn't far enough. Enough truth here to be worth reading. All criticism diminishes him, for example, even from people he detests. What writer would argue with that? ... Read more

19. Tilting at Mortality: Narrative Strategies in Joseph Heller's Fiction (Humor in Life and Letters Series)
by David M. Craig
Paperback: 336 Pages (2000-05)
list price: US$22.95 -- used & new: US$16.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0814329128
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This work considers Joseph Heller's career and examines each of his novels, including "Closing Time". It pursues two complementary tracks: first it explores the evolution of Heller's treatment of human morality; and second, it delineates Heller's artistic developments as a novelist. ... Read more

20. The Fiction of Joseph Heller: Against the Grain
by David Seed
 Hardcover: 244 Pages (1989-08)
list price: US$35.00
Isbn: 0312027958
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This critical assessment of Heller's works from his earliest short stories to his most recent work seeks to illustrate the absurdist vision which informs even his plays and occasional essays. His best-known work is "Catch-22" and this is dealt with thoroughly by the author, though not to the exclusion of other more minor works. Biographical information is included to supplement the critical discussion where relevant and draws on some previously unpublished material. The author has written "The Fictional Labyrinths of Thomas Pynchon". ... Read more

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