Joseph Heller was born in 1923 in New York City. He served in the US Army
Air Force in World War II, and studied at the University of Southern California,
New York University (B.A. 1948), Columbia University (M.A. 1949), and Oxford,
England (1949--50). He became an advertising writer and promotion manager
in New York City (1952--56), and taught at various universities, notably at
City College of New York, until 1975.
His wartime experience formed the background for his first book, Catch
22 (1961), which launched him as a successful novelist. The anti-war plot
centered on the view that US airmen on dangerous combat missions must be considered
insane, but if they seek to be relieved on grounds of mental derangement,
they find themselves ineligible, since such a request proves their sanity.
Hence "Catch 22' has come to signify any logical trap or double bind.
A sequel, Closing Time, appeared in 1994. His other works include Something
Happened (1974), God Knows (1984), and Picture This (1988).