Catch As Catch Can: The Collected Stories and Other Writings

Joseph Heller

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2004
ISBN 10: 0743257936 / ISBN 13: 9780743257930
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Synopsis: 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 Also included are five previously unpublished short stories, most reflecting the influence on Heller of urban naturalist writers such as Irwin Shaw and Nelson Algren.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.

Review: With his first book, the seminal anti-war novel Catch-22, Joseph Heller became one of American literature's most important 20th-century writers. The posthumous collection, Catch As Catch Can: The Collected Stories and Other Writings, shows Heller's early development as a writer, but in essence provides the "outtakes," "B-sides," and sketches related to Catch-22, and several nonfiction pieces regarding it, mixed with juvenilia. A more appropriate title might have been The Making of Catch-22.

Heller's early forays into fiction are somewhat memorable, such as "The Girl from Greenwich," a story about vanity, and "A Man Named Flute," wherein a father deals with the discovery of his son's drug use. Also, "World Full of Great Cities" is a disturbing look at what a couple might do to save their marriage. This collection, however, contains a great many works that revolve around Catch-22, or contain characters that appear in that work, including two chapters cut from the novel and published as independent stories: "Love, Dad" and "Yossarian Survives." Not surprisingly, these are the strongest works in the book. "Love, Dad" provides the first introduction to Edward J. Nately III, who "was often lonely and nagged by vague, incipient longings. He contemplated his sophomore year at Harvard without enthusiasm, without joy. Fortunately, the War broke out in time to save him." Joseph Heller will be known forever for his great novel, Catch-22, and Catch As Catch Can serves to back up this notion. --Michael Ferch

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Title: Catch As Catch Can: The Collected Stories ...
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2004
Book Condition: Very Good
Edition: Reprint.

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