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.
1 thought on “Joseph Heller | Something Happened”
An extraordinary piece of writing. The kind that forces strangled gasps of air from your mouth whilst reading on public transport….a protagonist that leaves you so deeply exasperated he exhausts you. Genious! I’ve never read a book like it!