Joseph Heller (1923, Brooklyn, NY – 1999, Long Island, NY) lived most of his adult creative life in the shadow of his brilliant first publication, a work of genius that quite literally spoke to an entire generation, was the Zeitgeist book that encapsulated the anti-war mood of the times and even gave the world a new English expression which has since entered into the common vernacular – Catch-22.
In his final book, Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man he ruefully explores this very theme in a novel that is also laden with gallows humour (Heller died shortly after completing the novel).
To jog your memories, here’s a clip from Mike Nichols’ movie adaptation of Catch-22 (1970).
It’s not surprising therefore, that the gestation period for Heller’s second novel, Something Happened, was somewhat protracted. The book was finally published in the United States in 1974 by Alfred A Knopf, thirteen years after Catch-22 first appeared in 1961. Although it never achieved the commercial success of its predecessor it received a glowing reception from the critics. Although Something Happened retains some of the absurdist juxtapositions of Catch-22 on the whole the overall feeling is very bleak with its wilfully repetitive, internal monologue of the narrator, Bob Slocum, a jaded and cynical middle-aged man frustrated by the disappointments of living the American Dream.
I love Jospeh Heller, and this is my absolute favourite – the book has a maddening hypnotic power right through to its mesmerising conclusion.
Anyway, here is my copy – a signed first US edition of Jospeh Heller’s Something Happened.