Joseph Heller's 'Catch-22' turns 50 this fallBy Deirdre Donahue
A half a century ago, a Manhattan ad guy straight out of Mad Men wrote a novel whose title became an indispensable part of our lexicon.
This October, get ready to sing "Happy 50th birthday" to Joseph Heller's Catch-22.
Publishers are already marking the anniversary:
•Out this week is One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller by Tracy Daugherty (St. Martin's Press, $35), the first full biography of the writer.
•Due in stores later this month is Yossarian Slept Here (Simon & Schuster, $25), Erica Heller's bittersweet memoir of her father.
•Released this spring: A 50th anniversary edition of Catch-22, with an introduction by Heller friend and fellow satirist Christopher Buckley (Simon & Schuster).
Biographer Daugherty, who teaches at Oregon State University, calls Heller's debut novel "the bible of American black humor." The classic has sold more than 10 million copies since 1961.
The novel, whose protagonist is named Capt. Yossarian (and played by Alan Arkin in the 1970 film), draws on Heller's experiences as a World War II bombardier (he flew 60 missions). But it also captures the timeless frustration of dealing with insane bureaucracies. Heller created "a shorthand phrase that didn't exist before," Daugherty says, but one we all understand. "It's like you can't get a job unless you have a job."