Joseph Heller Remembered
by Ricco Villanueva Siasoco
Joseph Heller, the author who introduced the phrase "catch-22" into the English language, died on December 12 at the age of 76 in his home in East Hampton, New York. A spokesman said he died of a heart attack.
In 1961, Heller published his first novel, Catch-22, a surreal anti-war story set in World War II. Heller's protagonist, a fighter pilot, comes to understand that a man deemed insane by the military bureaucracy may be released from duty. The "catch-22" of Heller's title is that when a man recognizes his condition, he is no longer insane. Heller spoke at numerous college campuses throughout the 60's, and Catch-22 seemed to captur the anti-war sentiment of many protesters during the Vietnam War.
Heller was born in New York City in 1923. Though he continued to publish the novels Something Happened (1974), Good As Gold (1979), God Knows (1984), and Picture This (1988), these books never matched the success of Catch-22. An interviewer once said to Heller he'd never written anything as good as Catch 22. The author replied, "Who has?"