Catch as Catch Can: Collected Stories and Other Writings by Joseph Heller

For Joseph Heller, there was only one catch, and that was Catch-22. Although his blockbuster first novel catapulted him to lifelong prominence as one of the century’s most important novelists, its very success would haunt him for the rest of his career. Because he was only important for the one novel. Everybody loved the crazy WWII satire, but about the rest of his writing, you heard words like “tepid.” As time went by, even he grew to accept his fate as American letters’ jack of one trade. When he came to Minneapolis a few years back for a book signing, he seemed genuinely surprised when I asked him to autograph Good As Gold, the lampoon of Washington politics and American Judaism that’s generally considered his second-best book. “I haven’t seen this in a while,” he said. This posthumous collection of short stories and miscellanea is no exception. Though it features several pieces of fiction from early in his career, it’s dominated by the presence of The Book. Outtakes from Catch-22 are followed by outtakes from the ill-remembered sequel, Closing Time, and four behind-the-scenes essays on Catch-22’s creation and later adaptation into Mike Nichols’ 1970 film. Still, better one catch than no catch at all.