Only a year after the publication of Catch-22 Heller had his idea for a second novel and he had soon planned out the whole book.1 In the event Something Happened was not published until 1974, being delayed by Heller’s script-writing, political activities and above all the production of We Bombed in New Haven which caused a two-year interruption to his writing. Although he had written some 172 pages of the new novel after We Bombed had been produced he went back and rewrote the whole work afresh. 2 On the face of it nothing could be further from Catch-22 in method and subject than this extended monologue by a bored middle-aged business executive but Heller gives Bob Slocum (the protagonist/narrator) a background of wartime experience in the US air force which originally was much closer to Yossarian’s than appears from the final novel. A preliminary version of the opening chapter published in 1966 identifies Slocum as a former bombardier flying missions over Italy and France. Heller subsequently erased these references and attenuated Slocum’s experiences in Italy down to a time of lost sexual prowess and a symbolic time of freedom. ‘I was outside my family,’ he reflects, ‘had no wife, job, parent, children, met no-one I cared for. I had no ties’.3 By contrast Slocum’s present situation is all ties in his business and in his family life.


Symbolic Time Narrative Voice Sexual Prowess Ambiguous Pronoun Wartime Experience 
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  1. 1.
    William T. Keough, ‘Something Happened After Catch-22’, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 3 Oct. 1974, p. 8. Heller has also given 1964 as the date when he started work on the novel. As with Catch-22 substan-tial editorial work was done on Heller’s manuscript for Something Happened by Bob Gottlieb who reportedly reorganised the last chap-ter, suggested a new opening, and who found a ‘method for organizing the material to give structure’ (Israel Shenker, ‘2nd Heller Book Due 13 Years After First’, New York Times, 18 Feb. 1974, p. 30). The full extent of these editorial changes has yet to emerge.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    James Shapiro, ‘Work in Progress/Joseph Heller’, Intellectual Digest, vol. II (1971) p. 6.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Sloan Wilson, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (London: Reprint Society, 1957) p. 30. In Chapter 3 of this novel when Rath is applying for a new job he is asked to produce a biographical résumé conduding ‘the most significant fact about me is. ..’ In the event he decides not to play the game and writes that the most significant thing is his job application. In 1955 Heller applied for a job at Simon and Schuster where he was asked to perform the same task. His conclusion to ‘the most significant thing about myself’ was ‘that there is no most significant thing about myself’ (MS, Columbia University). This collection also includes a proposal by Heller for promoting the sales of Dr Smiley Blanton’s book Love or Perish. Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    William H. Whyte, The Organization Man (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1960) p. 158.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Elizabeth Long, The American Dream and the Popular Novel (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985) p. 122.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Braudy, “’C’mon, Joe” ’, p. 9; Joseph Heller and Speed Vogel, No Laughing Matter (London: Cape, 1986) p. 158.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (N.Y.: Basic Books, 1973) p. 217.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    Fyodor Dostoievsky, White Nights (transl. by Constance Garnett) (London: Macmillan, 1950) pp. 57–8.Google Scholar
  9. 24.
    Richard Hauer Costa, ‘Notes from a Dark Heller: Bob Slocum and the Underground Man’, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, vol. 23. ii (Summer 1981) pp. 166–7.Google Scholar
  10. 25.
    Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) p. 189.Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    Walker Percy, ‘The State of the Novel: Dying Art or New Science?’ Michigan Quarterly Review, vol. 16. iv (1977) pp. 364–5.Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    Philip Roth, Portnoys Complaint (London: Cape, 1969) p. 111.Google Scholar
  13. 37.
    Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (London: Abacus, 1980) p. 38.Google Scholar
  14. 40.
    Frederick R. Karl, American Fictions 1940–1980 (New York: Harper & Row, 1983) p. 492.Google Scholar
  15. 43.
    Susan Strehle Klemtner, “’A Permanent Game of Excuses’: Deter-minism in Heller’s Something Happened’, in Critical Essays on Joseph Heller, p. 110; George J. Searles, ‘Something Happened: A New Direction for Joseph Heller,’ Critique, vol. 18. iii (1977) p. 77.Google Scholar
  16. 49.
    Stephen A. Shapiro, ‘The Ambivalent Animal: Man in the Contemporary British and American Novel’, Centennial Review, vol. 12 (1968) pp. 1, 2.Google Scholar
  17. 51.
    Lindsey Tucker, ‘Entropy and Information Theory in Heller’s Something Happened’, Contemporary Literature, vol. 25. iii (1984) pp. 323–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 52.
    H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler, The Kings English (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958) p. 279.Google Scholar
  19. 58.
    Richard Pearce, ‘Enter the Frame’ in Raymond Federman (ed.), Surfiction (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975) p. 48.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Seed 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Seed
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolUK

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