- Obama takes aim at ‘corporate deserters’
- Dick’s Sporting Goods lays off 478 PGA golf pros
- Senators: Cease-fire must allow Israel to defend against rockets, tunnels
- Sierra Leone doctor fighting Ebola catches disease
- Iraq welcomes Russian fighter jets, helicopter gunships into ISIL fight
- John McCain laments: Obama’s ‘self-pity … is really kind of sad’
- GOP offer to fix VA gives $10 billion in emergency funds
- Paul Ryan offers to repair U.S. economic safety net with a single grant stream
- Kim Jong-un builds bond with Putin: $250M Russia-backed addition to key port opens
- Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death
Friends reminisce about the Joseph Heller they knew
Question of the Day
NEW YORK — Fifty years after the publication of “Catch-22,” author Joseph Heller is long dead, and his editor has finally gotten around to re-reading it.
“I’m happy to report that I love it,” Robert Gottlieb said Wednesday night before hundreds gathered at the Symphony Space performing arts center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “(But) I kept wanting to edit it. I kept thinking, ‘How did I let this go by?’ “
Mr. Gottlieb appeared with two other Heller experts - Mike Nichols and author Christopher Buckley, representing those who met the author in his 30s (Mr. Gottlieb), in middle age (Mr. Nichols) and in his final years (Mr. Buckley).
Interviewed by CBS television correspondent Lesley Stahl, they reminisced about a perpetually anxious, but life-affirming former World War II flyer and advertising man whose dark send-up of war and bureaucracy anticipated the disillusion with Vietnam. The novel has sold more than 10 million copies, read alike by anti-war protesters and cadets at the Air Force Academy, where the book has long been taught.
Mr. Gottlieb was there at the birth, a new and promising editor at Simon & Schuster who convinced executives to give a first-time author and his strange mix of laughter and horror a chance. Mr. Gottlieb, who has since worked with such prize-winners as Toni Morrison, Robert Caro and Barbara Tuchman, said he never knew an author so collaborative as Heller.
“It was always like that with him,” he said. “He had the mind of an editor more than any writer I worked with.”
Mr. Nichols, known for such films as “The Graduate” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” entered the “Catch-22” story in the late 1960s. “The Graduate” had made Mr. Nichols one of Hollywood’s hottest directors, and he was encouraged to take on a seemingly hot property.
Mr. Nichols was reluctant, finding the novel too dense and complicated, wondering how to assemble a “huge, surrealistic movie that says war is madness.” But he and co-writer Buck Henry became caught up in the story’s circular power, the plot going “round and round and round.”
Mr. Nichols had his pick of actors - from Alan Arkin and Anthony Perkins to Orson Welles and Jon Voight. But the film received mixed reviews, including from Mr. Nichols, who noted that “Catch-22” had the bad luck to come out the same year as Robert Altman’s lighter, hipper “M.A.S.H.”
The director has grown to like his movie more, reasoning that at least he made the film as faithful as possible to the book. The star, Mr. Arkin, remains a tough sell.
“He was always unhappy,” Mr. Nichols said to much laughter about the actor, who played bombardier John Yossarian. Mr. Nichols said he had so enjoyed a recent viewing of the film that he wrote Mr. Arkin to assure him of his performance.
” ‘You have no idea how good you are in this,’ ” Mr. Nichols remembers telling him. “And he says, ‘You’re right, I don’t.’ “
Mr. Buckley, who wrote the introduction to this year’s anniversary reissue of “Catch-22,” became friends with Heller in appropriately upside down fashion. Mr. Buckley had given a lukewarm review to Heller’s “Catch-22” sequel, “Closing Time,” published in 1994. Soon after, a letter arrived at the Buckley house, with Heller’s name on the return address.
TWT Video Picks
The subsidies are a hit with patients who don't exist
- Evidence shows Russia firing artillery into Ukraine: Pentagon
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Algerian plane diverted due to storms, second aircraft: 116 missing
- House panel OKs resolution to sue president for Obamacare delays
- Obama's empty tough-talk: Gun prosecutions plummet on his watch
- Norway expects imminent 'concrete threat' from ISIL terrorists 'within days'
- Conservative groups decry Democrats' 'war on women' tactic
- Obama says public not familiar enough with issues
- CARSON: Costco and the perils of mixing politics and business
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq