“Destiny is a good thing to accept when it's going your way. When it isn't, don't call it destiny; call it injustice, treachery, or simple bad luck” – Joseph Heller
Born on this date in 1923, Heller authored novels, short stories, plays and screenplays, and his satire on war and its bureaucracy – Catch 22 – became part of the lexicon and a synonym for an absurd or contradictory choice.
First written under the title Catch 18 and not intended to be longer than a novelette, Catch 22 was not only Heller’s first novel but also one that was literally years in the making. He said the idea for the opening and the main character John Yossarian “just came to me” one morning in 1952, and he wrote the first chapter in just days. But it took over 8 years before he finally could flesh it all out and complete the book.
A “slow, but steady” novelist, he came up with the concept for his second book Something Happened after the overwhelming success of Catch 22, which made him a millionaire. Like his first, the second novel took nearly 8 years to complete, althugh he did write the screenplay for Sex and The Single Girl and an episode for McHale’s Navy in between – along with numerous short stories, a couple of plays, and a number of commentatries. He also became a successful creative writing teacher at Yale, Penn and CCNY.
When once asked about the long period of time between his books, he said he didn’t think it was unusual, noting, “Every writer I know has trouble writing.”
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