Something Happened

( 11 )

Overview

Bob Slocum was living the American dream. He had a beautiful wife, three lovely children, a nice house...and all the mistresses he desired. He had it all — all, that is, but happiness. Slocum was discontent. Inevitably, inexorably, his discontent deteriorated into desolation until...something happened.
Something Happened is Joseph Heller's wonderfully inventive and controversial second novel satirizing business life and American culture. The story is told as if the reader was ...

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Something Happened

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Overview

Bob Slocum was living the American dream. He had a beautiful wife, three lovely children, a nice house...and all the mistresses he desired. He had it all — all, that is, but happiness. Slocum was discontent. Inevitably, inexorably, his discontent deteriorated into desolation until...something happened.
Something Happened is Joseph Heller's wonderfully inventive and controversial second novel satirizing business life and American culture. The story is told as if the reader was overhearing the patter of Bob Slocum's brain — recording what is going on at the office, as well as his fantasies and memories that complete the story of his life. The result is a novel as original and memorable as his Catch-22.

As revealing today as when it was first published, this brilliant novel by the author of Picture This expresses the concerns of an entire generation in its black comedy. World War II flier John Yossarian decides that his only mission each time he goes up is to return--alive!

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Two modern giants (LJ 2/15/70 and LJ 11/1/61, respectively) join Knopf's venerable "Everyman's Library." If you've been searching for quality hardcovers of these two eternally popular titles, look no further.
Charles McGrath
....[I]mportant book that offers a portrait of a representatiave postwar American man whose existence is seen as a kind of narcissistic death-in-life. -- The New York Times Books of the Century
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684841212
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/12/1997
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 186,973
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn in 1923. In 1961, he published Catch-22, which became a bestseller and, in 1970, a film. He went on to write such novels as Good as Gold, God Knows, Picture This, Closing Time (the sequel to Catch-22), and Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. Heller died in December 1999.

Biography

Sometimes life traps you in an unfortunate situation that is impossible to escape from because of a set of inherently absurd rules. Take Joseph Heller, for example. The very first novel he published was among the most biting, powerful, hilarious examples of contemporary literature, a genuine classic of 1960s anti-war literature. Yet, Heller was forever trapped by that novel, unable to achieve similar success with his subsequent works no matter how fine they may have been. Both that painful predicament and that auspicious debut novel are known as Catch-22, and one hopes that an absurdist such as Joseph Heller had to at least appreciate that irony a little.

Catch-22 (1961) was somewhat based on Heller's own experiences as a B-25 bombadier in the Twelfth Air Force during World War II. It is the story of John Yossarian, a malingering bombardier stationed in Italy during the war. He lives in constant terror of being killed, so he flies each of his missions with the sole goal of returning alive. Unfortunately, Colonel Cathcart keeps increasing the number of missions he must undertake in order to complete his service. Yossarian's only way out is to prove that he is insane. Of course, the only way he can do that is to willingly take the most dangerous missions the air force has to offer. Yossarian's ridiculous, unwinnable situation is the Catch-22 from which the novel gets its name.

Heller uses Yossarian's situation as a means to satirize and criticize the military and dehumanizing bureaucracies in general. The novel follows a disorienting logic of its own, owing more to Lewis Carroll's Wonderland than any war-themed novel before it. Consequently, Heller's unique approach to his subject had a deep influence on writers such as Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five) and Tom Robbins (Villa Incognito). In 1970, Catch-22 was adapted into a star-studded feature film by director Mike Nichols (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ; The Graduate). Although many viewed the film as a disappointment, it had its fair share of highly inspired sequences, and in all fairness, the whimsical structure of the novel does not easily lend itself to the cinematic medium.

With a genuine classic on his hands, Heller then took his time producing his second novel. Something Happened did not appear until 1974, but it continued many of the themes present in Catch-22. This time around he directed his poison pen at the dehumanizing effects of the big-business world. Heller's tangy blend of pessimism and humanism would be the driving force behind the majority of his work that followed, including Good as Gold, Closing Time (a sequel to Catch-22), and the play We Bombed New Haven. However, none of his subsequent efforts came close to matching the success or influence of Catch-22, a fact that irked Heller until his death. His final novel, the posthumously published Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man, explored this very theme as writer Eugene Pota struggles to decide upon a subject for his final novel.

Despite his own misgivings about his career, Joseph Heller will forever be remembered as a giant in American literature, even if it is only due to his first novel... and that's the kind of Catch-22 in which most writers would kill to be trapped.

Good To Know

Heller often supplemented his income by taking screenwriting jobs. He worked on screenplays for the films Sex and the Single Girl and Casino Royale, and even worked on the television show McHale's Navy under the pseudonym "Max Orange."

Heller's great abhorrence of war transcended his novels and plays. During the ‘60s, he was very involved in the movement against the war in Vietnam.

Although Catch-22 is regarded as an American classic, it did not truly nab public attention until receiving glowing notices in Great Britain a year after its U.S. debut.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Max Orange
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 1, 1923
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      December 12, 1999
    2. Place of Death:
      East Hampton, New York

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2006

    It does have meaning!

    Joseph Heller is and incredible writer and describes the main character's(bob slocum)emotions with outstanding detail. Many have said that this novel was nothing more than a woe is me story of a man in depression, but i think it may have a strong underlying theme. Such as, if you want to change something, you have to change it, you just can't sit around and wait. I loved this novel by one of my favorite authors.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2001

    Something happened to me.

    This novel reads like a kick to the groin. Every facet of life-simple pleasures, fidelity, success are called into question. Every corner of his imagination has a light shined on it and something, some unnamed thing scampers into and out of the light before we get a hold of it. Until the final page of the book you don't really know what happened. But you won't forget.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2012

    Sluggish

    I've loved Heller's other books but this one just wallowed. I had to put it down. Maybe I'll come back to it some day. There's humor but I feel as if it were trying too hard to be comical. I highly recommend Catch-22, though. One of my all time favorites

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  • Posted August 24, 2011

    Exactly

    The American propaganda machine that tells you if you don't like something, change it, is a cruel tool that allows people to perpetuate atrocity after atrocity and if you don't like it is up to you to change it AND that is not healthy. You can't change circumstances and never will. All you drones that continue to reinforce people controlling you by telling you you have control are just tools. Sad, but this book finally and brilliantly illuminates that fact and puts the lie to rest. There is no self initiating force in the brain and nobody ever changes the system. We must take what we are given and adapt. This wonderful book gives us reality with detailed literary character studies and all you conditioned drones that can't handle the truth are the bad guys. This book is a wonderful examination of life, experiences in this culture and how our interactions with our environments shape our brain and behavior. Some people are sad and there are reasons. That is awesome. Everybody that is offended that the main character is depressed and has the nerve to give reasons for their lack of satisfaction, which you clones call excuses, are a cancer. In order to avoid manipulation we must understand manipulation and this book finally gives reasons and finally allows understanding and is a brilliant exhortation that Something Happening.

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  • Posted January 14, 2009

    I did not like this book becuase...

    I recently read ¿Something Happened¿ by Joseph Miller. Overall, the book was well written, with great literary techniques, including some which I hadn¿t seen used as well before. However, the book was slow moving. I did not like the book because the plot was tedious and the main character was difficult to sympathize with.<BR/>The main character, Bob Slocum, is very dislikeable. He cheats on his wife often with multiple women. He frequently gets in arguments with his teenage daughter, who he tries to demean. He has a mentally handicapped son, ¿Derek¿, whom he wishes would either go away or die. He feels like he is destroying his younger son, although that son is the only family member he loves. I thought it was strange that the author never gave names to any of his family member expect for his handicapped son. At work, where he despises most of his coworkers, he spends his time flirting with a younger woman from the Art Department.<BR/>The book starts out with the narrator telling awkward and at times slightly disturbing stories of his childhood and young adulthood. Some of these were interesting to read, and some were repetitive and did not seem necessary. For example, he tells the story of the first and maybe only woman he loved several times. This woman was older than him and committed suicide after he went to look for her after a few years of not seeing her. Some of the first chapters are named after the problems in his life. The content of the book gets darker and more abstract, until something finally happens.<BR/>The only likeable character, his son, dies at the end of the book. The son sadly dies because Bob holds him to tight after he got in a car accident. I thought this was ironic for a character, who had been so unaffectionate and cold throughout the book. The last, short, chapter of the book wraps up various concerns the narrator has had throughout the book.<BR/>To conclude, I did not like the book because it was slow moving. I would, however, consider reading other books by the same author because I liked the way it was written. I also have heard that ¿Catch-22¿ is very good.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2002

    Satire is used to reveal the lack of interest in the daily grind

    ¿Something Happened¿, by Joseph Heller, describes the life of an ordinary man working in corporate America. The main character, Bob Slocum, relates to many of the people in the business world, because he¿s not perfect. Mr. Slocum¿s problems with his family and his workplace are problems that many Americans deal with every day. He desires sex, he is in some ways a bigot, and he does not make all of his own decisions. Slocum goes through everyday life fearing someone or something. The reason is that something happened. Not too far into the novel, the reader learns that Bob Slocum is on the extreme end of not being perfect, and that¿s what makes the story so great. Many Americans are guilty of living a life of boredom that bears very little responsibility; in this case an average guy is depicted as living in fear, and only doing something when he absolutely has to. Heller uses satire in order to create not only comedy, but also to show how business in America really is. For example, ¿It¿s a real problem to decide whether it¿s more boring to do something boring than to pass along everything boring that comes in to somebody else and then have nothing to do at all.¿ Heller is writing about the paper pushing that is a part of any large corporation and is reflected in how there is really not much important work that has to be done. He also mentions how everyone is afraid of at least a certain amount of people, who are also afraid of a certain amount of people. The only motivation for the employees to do anything is just to prevent getting hassled or for fear of losing their jobs. Essentially he is alluding to the fact that people are getting paid to waste time for most of their workdays.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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