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Catch 22
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Catch 22

Biography

Joseph Heller was born on May 1, 1923, in Coney Island, New York.� His father died when he was young, and he was raised by his mother and two older siblings.� When World War II began, Heller became a blacksmith's helper in Virginia.� He then entered the Army, and finally the U.S. Air Force in 1942. �He graduated cadet school and became a bombardier in Italy.

 

During a combat mission, he experienced an incident similar to the flight in Catch-22 on which Snowden dies. The co-pilot grabbed the controls from the pilot in a panic.� When the pilot regained control and Heller plugged his headset back in, he heard the co-pilot crying "Help him!� Help the bombardier!"� When Heller assured them he was all right, he was send back to help the gunner with a wound in the thigh.� Although this is not the only World War II experience Heller draws upon in Catch-22, this real experience became one of the most important incidents in the text.

 

When he left the armed forces, Heller entered college on the G.I. Bill.� He graduated from New York University in 1948.� For several years, he wrote short stories, did some graduate work, and taught.� In 1952, he went into advertising.�

 

Heller began writing Catch-22 in 1953, but it was not published until eight years later.� Originally titled Catch-18, the name was changed because another popular book at the time had the number 18 in its title.� If the title had not been changed, a well-known expression in the English language would be just a little different.

 

Heller wrote several other novels, memoirs, and plays.� He married twice.� In 1981, he developed Guillain-Barr� syndrome.� He later recovered from this nerve disorder.�

 

Joseph Heller died in 1999 of a heart attack in his home in East Hampton, New York.

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