Literary Birthday – 1 May – Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller was born 1 May 1923, and died 12 December 1999

Three Classic Catch-22 Quotes

  1. He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.
  2. ‘They’re trying to kill me,’ Yossarian told him calmly.
    ‘No one’s trying to kill you,’ Clevinger cried.
    ‘Then why are they shooting at me?’ Yossarian asked.
    ‘They’re shooting at everyone,’ Clevinger answered. ‘They’re trying to kill everyone.’
    ‘And what difference does that make?’
  3. Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.

Joseph Heller Quotes

  1. I wanted to be a writer when I was in the sixth grade—of course I wanted to be one without working at it.
  2. I don’t think it’s good to achieve too much at too early an age. What else can the future give you if you’ve already got all that your imagination has dreamt up for you? A writer is only discovered once in a lifetime, and if it happens very early the impossibility of matching that moment again can have a somewhat corrosive effect on his personality and indeed on the work itself.
  3. Every writer I know has trouble writing.
  4. I don’t unfinish anything I start, and I don’t start—as I’ve said—until I see the whole thing in my head.
  5. When I read something saying I’ve not done anything as good as Catch-22 I’m tempted to reply, ‘Who has?’
  6. I’m in no hurry. I tell gifted writing students that they need patience, and that writing is hard work and does not get easier for the people who are most successful at it. But I don’t recommend my system to aspiring writers. It results in long intervals between the start of a book and its end.
  7. The only wisdom I think I’ve attained is the wisdom to be sceptical of other people’s ideology and other people’s arguments. I tend to be a sceptic, I don’t like dogmatic approaches by anybody. I don’t like intolerance and a dogmatic person is intolerant of other people. It’s one of the reasons I keep a distance from all religious beliefs.

Joseph Heller was an American satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. The title of one of his works, Catch-22, entered the English lexicon to refer to a vicious circle with an absurd, no-win choice. Although he is remembered for Catch-22, his other works include God Knows and Something Happened, and concentrate on the lives of middle-class characters and remain examples of modern satire.

Source for Image: derivative work: Anrie (talk)Joseph_Heller1986.jpg: MDCArchives, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 1st May 2013