HELLER, Joseph. Catch 22. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961.
8o. Original cloth (some dust soiling to covers, small pale marginal dampstain to top margin of first 150 pages). Provenance: JOSEPH HELLER (annotated copy).
JOSEPH HELLER'S OWN DENSELY ANNOTATED COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION OF HIS FIRST BOOK, later printing. INSCRIBED BY HELLER on the front free endpaper: "Copy used by me in organizing thoughts & material for the stage dramatization. Joseph Heller."
Heller has made an abundance of notes in this copy, with copious marginal remarks to nearly every page summarizing plot points and character motivation, identifying allusions--to T.S. Eliot, Edwin Arlington Robinson and Shakespeare--indicating pivotal moments and scenes of foreshadowing, and clarifying the temporal relationship between passages. As the copy he used to prepare the dramatic adaptation (see lot 142), it also contains Heller's thoughts on passages which might be translated into dialogue which might be kept intact. It is worth noting that each time Heller put his hand to this copy, he reflected on his text; not one annotation emends the text.
Heller dramatically situates the reader in his first remark in chapter one: "Yossarian in the hospital as a malingerer. He has gone there in despair after Clevinger disappeared in a cloud... The book begins and ends in the hospital." Fairly early on he points out where Catch 22 is first explicitly defined: "Yossarian failing in his attempt to be grounded for physical reasons tries to be grounded because he is crazy in everyone else's opinion. Danneeka counters this by explaining Catch-22 in relation to ORR. This is a definition of Catch-22 as it operates in a specific instance" (page 45). Heller's final comment follows a scene in which Yossarian is attacked by Nately's whore, who has been blaming him for Nately's death for several hundered pages now. Heller continues the story: "She will always be after him, and he will always be running. But as long as he is, there will be spirit of hope on the loose."
A sampling of the hundreds of Heller's annotations provides the flavor of his notes and a glimpse into his philosophy and writing process:
"It is rational for contemporary man to scream with terror when he ponders his fate" (page 54).
"Dr Stubbs, in this single view of him, is the antithesis of Daneeka, he expresses the resentment which the audience should be feeling, and his last line is a blunt statement of one of the major themes. And although he never appears again, there are a succession of references to the effect that he is defying the Colonels and trying to save the men from combat. On p. 381, he will be accused of being in conspiracy with the chaplain and transferred to the Pacific" (page 109).
"This was both a theme and an objective in giving the book the structure it has" (page 143).
"Both the universe and our society operate without logic & for justice" (page 169).
"... (actually this would have taken place before Bologna although no one not even me would know it)..." (page 225).
"Milo's hypocrisy & self-righteousness are indistinguishable from each other. I intended him not to be deceitful but always sincere" (page 260).
AN EXCEEDINGLY IMPORTANT COPY OF CATCH 22. The majority of Heller's papers are held either by Brandeis University or the University of South Carolina. The present copy of Catch 22 provides a broad and unique look inside the writing process, and shows how a writer reads his own work, how he manipulates it to create a new form. This and the manuscript of its dramatic version offered as lot 142 are of immense importance in analyzing Heller's work and process.
Orville Prescott, in his 1961 review in The New York Times, conceded at first that Catch 22 was not a successful novel, but quickly enthused that it was "Wildly original, brilliantly comic, brutally gruesome, it is a dazzling performance that will probably outrage nearly as many readers as it delights." Prescott noted: "In any case, it is one of the most startling first novels of the year and it may make its author famous." Indeed it did: Catch 22 not only launched Heller's career, it became a defining post-war American catch phrase.