Just One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller

At the 0th anniversary of 'Catch-22', Tracy Daugherty illuminates his most vital subject yet in this biography of Joseph Heller. Heller 's life was filled with women and romantic indiscretions, but he was erhaps more famous for his friendships with Mel Brooks, Zero Mostel, and countles others.
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Published August 2nd 2011 by St. Martin's Press

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Strange to say, although not apparently mentioned in his ook, the same editor rejected rewrites of " Confederacy of Dunces " numerous times for being too funny or pointless, which is said to have lead to O'Toole 's fatal depression.

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It does a decen job of treating its subject in an evenhanded manner, making him come alive, and giving the reader sympathy for him despite his embodying so many of the worst aspect of self-centered, chauvinistic Jewish men of his generation.Those of us who write novels and whose idea of " modest advance " is ot the$ 750,000 that Heller received for one of his later, minor works, can only marvel at just how lucky he was to write what he wrote at a time that he did and have everything fall into place so that he ca, basically, do whatever he wanted for the remainder of his life and get generously overpaid for it.

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hat makes two in a row, with Ted Williams first, now Joe Heller.

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Unlike many modern biographies he has neve done more than hint at the darker psychology of Mr. Heller nor has he written a tell-all listing Heller 's indiscretions and detailing his failures.Mr. Daugherty makes the case for Joseph Heller as an important writer and does so by detailing his role in a remarkably literate generation of American riters.

The saying of the time was Catch 22 was written during the Korean War about World War II but in condemnation of what ould become the war in Vietnam.About his later works Mr. Daugherty makes a good case that his later books were increasingly personal books but also ones that spoke of trends that were not yet ripe in the American conscience.The other strength of Daugherty 's book is he time and effort taken to describe the American literary milieu during Joe Heller 's generation.

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I do n't sa I 've ever learned more about riter 's work from reading a biography as I have fromTracy Daugherty 's " Just One Catch, " the first lengthy account of Joseph Heller 's life ( other than his own guarded memoir) we have.

In fact, his major work, " Catch-22 " is generally considered as an absurdist, highly imaginative alternative to the realistic war novels of James Jones and Norman Mailer.

As Daugherty points out, Heller wanted to deal with military life in an altogether different way than Jones and Mailer did in " From Here to Eternity " and " The Naked and the Dead. " Throughout his career, he was always pushing the envelope, highly successfully in his irst two ovels, somewhat less so in the res of his work.

He recognizes Heller 's intent to start out afresh with each ovel and avoid doing a " Catch-23 " or " Something Else Happened, " but points out as well the perils of this approach: " If you are oing to hit .400, do n't be so reckless as to do it in your rookie season. " Daugherty 's book is strongest when he give us through each of Heller 's books, reviving interest in works that have largely been forgotten: " God Knows, " " Picture This, " " Closing Time, " " Portrait of the Artist as an Old an, " and " No Laughing Matter, " book he co-authored with his friend Speed Vogel about his long struggle with Gullain-Barre syndrome, an auto-immune disease that left him incapcitated for several days.

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© Nicole Waggonner