A collection of Helleriana that goes far toward showing that the author was a one-trick pony. Likely to do little to raise the late Heller’s reputation, this is a compilation of his early short fiction (some not seen before) and a few slivers of nonfiction. Most of the 13 stories that have been previously published came out between 1945 and 1948, and they mine a predictable milieu of postwar ennui and repressed instincts. “Girl From Greenwich” is an especially snide little piece about a cynical writer meeting a gregarious, wide-eyed young woman who’s just written a fluffy first novel that’s on track to bestsellerdom. He’s smart, she’s dumb, his writing is quality, hers is for the masses, he drinks copiously, she’s never had a martini before, and so on. A couple of pieces of deleted Catch-22 material offer some moments of glee: “Love, Dad” explores Nately’s blue-blood background with hilarious results, and “Yossarian Survives” details the bombardier’s quizzical reaction to the cult of physical exercise. Unfortunately, what follows are a couple of selections from the deplorable Catch-22 sequel, Closing Time, about which the less said the better (ditto for the previously unpublished fiction). The volume closes with four mostly unenlightening articles about the creation of Catch-22. The exception is a 1972 article in which Heller talks about his absolute lack of interest in the years-long tribulations that went into Mike Nichols’s film adaptation of the book (Heller ultimately approved of the film but was never able to convince anyone that he really didn’t care either way).
Still, the world is grateful that Heller’s trick, if indeed only one, was Catch-22.