A collection of short stories and other miscellaneous writings by Joseph Heller, one of America’s most influential and idiosyncratic writers.
Years before the publication of Catch-22—which was called “a monumental artifact of contemporary literature” by The New York Times, “an apocalyptic masterpiece” by the Chicago Sun-Times, and “one of the most bitterly funny works in the language” by The New Republic—Joseph Heller began sharpening his skills as a writer, searching for the voice that would best express his own peculiarly wry view of the world.
In Catch As Catch Can, editors Matthew J. Bruccoli and Park Bucker have for the first time collected the short stories Heller published prior to that first novel, along with all the other short pieces of fiction and nonfiction that were published during his lifetime. Also included are five previously unpublished short stories, most reflecting the influence on Heller of urban naturalist writers such as Irwin Shaw and Nelson Algren.
The result is an important and significant addition to our understanding and appreciation of Joseph Heller, showing his evolution as a writer and artist. For those unfamiliar with his work, it will serve as an excellent introduction; for everyone else, Catch As Catch Can is a chance to explore a new aspect of Heller's remarkable career.
This posthumous collection of Heller's writings combines his published stories with five previously unpublished ones, along with several essays about the writing of and fallout from Catch-22 and a play based on that novel. The collection, which covers 50 years of Heller's work, is striking for its range of tone. Readers familiar only with the acid humor of Catch-22 will be surprised by the melancholy of his early naturalistic stories about poverty, forgotten war heroes and recovering drug addicts. WWII vet Nathan Scholl returns from a heroin treatment program in Kentucky to his native Washington, D.C., where he drifts through his old haunts dejected and uncured, in "To Laugh in the Morning." In "Lot's Wife," Sydney Cooper watches as his wife, Louise, nonchalantly smokes a cigarette in the car, unaffected by the presence, outside the vehicle, of the injured man she's just run down. The couple reappear in "The Death of the Dying Swan," she as a party hostess with a plastic smile, he as the dutiful but resentful husband who escapes the party by volunteering to buy a jar of mustard. The collection shows the gradual evolution of an author who began his career writing polished but predictable stories and ended up inventing a voice and idiom that came to define the postwar era. The volume will be much appreciated by Heller's fans and students.