Books That Made a Difference

Joseph Heller (1923-1999)



  • Born in 1923 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a truckdriver.
  • Married twice; two children from his first marriage.
  • Attended University of Southern California and New York University.  Received B.A. from the latter in 1948 and M.A. from Columbia University in 1949.  Pursued graduate study at Oxford University, 1949-50.
  • Served in the U. S. Army Air Forces in World War II as a B-25 wing bombardier; flew sixty missions; became first lieutenant.


  • Worked for Time, Look, and McCall's magazines during the 1950s.
  • Taught at several universities during the 1960s and 1970s from Yale University and Pennsylvania State University to the City College of the City University of New York, where he was a Distinguished Professor of English until 1975.
  • Began writing full-time in 1975.

Major Writings

Novels and Autobiography
22 (1961)
Something Happened (1966)
Good as Gold (1979)
God Knows (1984)
No Laughing Matter (with Speed Vogal) (1986)
Picture This (1988)
Closing Time (1994)

We Bombed in New Haven (1967)
Catch 22: A Dramatization (1971)
Clevenger's Trial (1973)

Sex and the Single Girl (with David r. Schwartz) (1964)
Casino Royale (uncredited) (1967)
Dirty Dingus Magee (1970)

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in multiple volumes of the following Gale publications: Contemporary Literary Criticism, including CLC 1, 1973; 3, 1975; 5, 1976; 8, 1978; 11, 1979; 36, 1986; 63, 1991; and  Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 2: American Novelists since World War II, Gale, 1978.  Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors) can be accessed online through a subscribing library at
  • Other printed resources include:

    (Specific studies of Catch 22)
    Kiley, Frederick and Walter McDonald, eds., A Catch-22 Casebook, 1973
    Nagel, James, ed. Critical Essays on Catch-22, 1974
    Scotto, Robert M., ed. A Critical Edition of Catch-22, 1973

    (Heller's place in American fiction)
    Aichinger, Peter, The American Soldier in Fiction, 1880-1963)
    American Novels of the Second World War, 1969
    Bier, Jesse, The Rise and Fall of American Humor, 1968
    Friedman, Bruce Jay, ed., Black Humor, 1965
    Harris, Charles B. Contemporary American Novelists of the Absurd
    Hauck, Richard Boyd, A Cheerful Nihilism: Confidence and the Absurd in American Humorous Fiction, 1971
    Miller, Wayne Charles, An Armed America, Its Face in Fiction: A History of the American Military Novel, 1970
    Olderman, Raymond M., Beyond the Wasteland: The American Novel in the Nineteen-Sixties, 1972
    Potts, Stephen W,, From Here to Absurdity: The Moral Battlefields of Joseph Heller, 1995
    Whitbread, Thomas B., ed., Seven Contemporary Authors, 1966 

  • Some reviews of Catch-22:
    • Atlantic Monthly, January 1962
    • New Republic, November 13, 1961
    • New Yorker, December 9, 1961
    • New York Times Book Review, October 22, 1961
    • Saturday Review, October 14, 1961
  • Useful online reviews available in the New York Times Books Archive:
    • Reviews of Closing Time (1994 sequel to Catch-22); September 22, 1994 (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt); September 25, 1994 (William H. Pritchard).

Retired Discussion Series

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