Know Your History – May 1st – Joseph Heller Born

know your history - writing

On this day… 1st May, 1923 – Joseph Heller Born

 

Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999) was an American satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. The title of one of his works, Catch-22, entered the English lexicon to refer to a vicious circle wherein an absurd, no-win choice, particularly in situations in which the desired outcome of the choice is an impossibility, and regardless of choice, a same negative outcome is a certainty. Although he is remembered primarily for Catch-22, his other works center on the lives of various members of the middle class and remain examples of modern satire.

About the Writing

Heller did not begin work on a story until he had envisioned both a first and last line. The first sentence usually appeared to him joseph heller quotes“independent of any conscious preparation.” In most cases, the sentence did not inspire a second sentence. At times, he would be able to write several pages before giving up on that hook. Usually, within an hour or so of receiving his inspiration, Heller would have mapped out a basic plot and characters for the story. When he was ready to begin writing, he focused on one paragraph at a time, until he had three or four handwritten pages, which he then spent several hours reworking.

Heller maintained that he did not “have a philosophy of life, or a need to organize its progression. My books are not constructed to ‘say anything.'” Only when he was almost one-third finished with the novel would he gain a clear vision of what it should be about. At that point, with the idea solidified, he would rewrite all that he had finished and then continue to the end of the story. The finished version of the novel would often not begin or end with the sentences he had originally envisioned, although he usually tried to include the original opening sentence somewhere in the text.

Did You Know?

 

HELLER WENT THROUGH FOUR NUMBERS BEFORE LANDING ON 22.

The original title of the story, as published in New World Writing, was Catch-18. Acquiescing to his publisher’s qualms about confusion with the similarly themed novel Mila 18, Heller dragged his title through a sequence of changes: Catch-11 (which was deemed too similar to the contemporary film Ocean’s 11), followed by Catch-17 (which posed the same problem with Billy Wilder’s war movie Stalag 17), and then Catch-14 (which Heller’s publisher thought just didn’t sound funny enough). Finally, the writer landed on Catch-22.

For more interesting facts visit – 15 Things You Might Not Know About ‘Catch-22’

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