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Heller, Joseph

Born: 1923 AD
Died: 1999 AD
Nationality: American
Categories: Satirists

1923 – Heller was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 1, 1923.

1941 – After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School, Heller joined the Twelfth Air Force. He was stationed in Corsica, where he flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier.

1949-1961 – Heller received his M.A. from Columbia University. He was a Fulbright scholar at Oxford University in 1949-1950. Heller taught English composition under a regimine for two years at Pennsylvania State University (1950-52), before moving on to become a copywriter for the magazines Time (1952-1956) and Look (1956-1958), and promotion manager for McCall’s. He left McCall’s to teach fiction and dramatic writing at Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania.

1968-1971 – Heller’s play-within-a-play, We Bombed in New Haven (1968), was written in part to express his protest against the Vietnam war. It was produced on Broadway and ran for 86 performances. Catch-22 has also been dramatized. It was first performed at the John Drew Theater in East Hampton, New York, July 13, 1971.

1974 – Heller waited 13 years before publishing his next novel – the darker and sombre Something Happened (1974).

1979 – Heller’s later works include Good As Gold (1979), where the protagonist Bruce Gold tries to regain the Jewishness he has lost. Readers hailed the work as a return to puns and verbal games familiar from Heller’s first novel.

1984 – God Knows (1984) was a modern version of the story of King David and an allegory of what it is like for a Jew to survive in a hostile world. David has decided that he has been given one of the best parts of the Bible. "I have suicide, regicide, patricide, homicide, fratricide, infanticide, adultery, incest, hanging, and more decapitations than just Saul’s."

1986 – No Laughing Matter (1986), written with Speed Vogel, was a surprisingly cheerful account of Heller’s experience as a victim of Guillain-Barré syndrome. During his recuperation Heller was visited among others by Mario Puzo, Dustin Hoffman and Mel Brooks.

1988 – His next book was the satirical and experimental historical fiction Picture This.

1989 – Heller married Valerie Humphries, a nurse he met while he was ill.

1998 –  Now And Then (1998) is Heller’s autobiographical work, evocation of his boyhood home, Brooklyn’s Coney Island in the 1920s and 1930s. "It has struck me since – it couldn’t have done so then – that in Catch-22 and in all my subsequent novels, and also in my one play, the resolution at the end of what narrative there is evolves from the death of someone other than the main character." (from Now and Then).

1999 – Heller died of a heart attack at his home on Long Island on December 13, 1999.