December 2012 Auction Ends Tuesday, December 18th, 5pm Pacific


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Excellent letter by author Joseph Heller, who here dissects his second novel, the non-linear ''Something Happened,'' a complicated book that ends with the reader learning that many of the memories of its protagonist, Bob Slocum, are unreliable. Heller writes on 27 November 1974 to Professor James Nagel about the just-released book in three lengthy pages, in part, ''...Thank you for the good news about sales in the Boston area and the good opinion of the book of yourself and your colleagues. If it continues selling well in Boston until Centennial fades a bit further and we advance a bit in Los Angeles, I might find myself enjoying that coveted honor, the record of which is held by one Jacqueline Susan, of appearing at least once at the top of the Times best-seller list...Now for the business part of your letter, which I find somewhat appalling. Heller as a source of information for research on Heller is starting to frighten me with a sense of increasing discomfort. I like the idea that it's going on, but I would rather observe it as a spectator than participate as a collaborator...The Catch-14 sheet is proof that my own memory is no longer a reliable source and confirms another feeling that by now you know more about both my books than I do. What you find on paper exists on paper, and many times now three people who where closest to Catch-22, I, my editor, and Nina Borne, the promotion director, disagree on things that happened in the past...The idea and story plan for SOMETHING HAPPENED, the title too, came to me by the end of summer in 1962. While working on a miscellany of short writing assignments, I mulled it over till 1964. Dated manuscript pages and a signed contract confirm that the actual writing began some time in 1964. In 1967, I was distracted from the project by the two productions of my play, written in spare time, WE BOMBED IN NEW HAVEN. One production was at the Yale School of Drama. The other production was on Broadway in 1968. (It did not bomb on Browadway [sic]: it ran on Broadway for eleven or twelve weeks, and most of the newspaper and television reviews were good.) In January, 1969, the play was out of my way and I returned to the novel; my procedure was to go back to the first of the typewritten pages I had and begin all over with them, writing in longhand. The sections grew longer, deeper, more complex, and more packed with meaning. For a difference, you might compare the opening section published in Esquire in 1966 with the same sections published in the book. Forty typewritten pages became about a hundred and twenty. The finished manuscript was handed in January of this year. Relations of both my books to the Pop Culture group can be found in the reviews of Ralph Gleason of both books--pieces by him on SOMETHING HAPPENED have appeared in recent issues of Rolling Stone and the San Francisco Chronicle--and a long review in the Miami Herald by someone named Lhamon of a Florida university made many references to the Pop Culture of the '60's and what happened to it. I don't know what you have in mind as a fragment or note, but I can probably supply one when I see you. For an interview in the Park Review, George Plimpton borrowed a handwritten page and one of my note cards. I think I can provide you with something better: those three-and-a-half handwritten pages that grew to more than six hundred in what I consider to be the most effective single section of the novel. Finally, about the 'time of action as related to' discovered something about the book that I didn't know and didn't think about at all while planning and writing the book; yet, it is undoubtedly true and helps account for much of the strong intimate binding set up between the text and the reader. So you do know more about the book than I do. I had no outline of the time scheme or any other outline--although I had, of course, a good idea of the sequence of events, but not of the digressions his mind would take--and that's about all I would like to say about SOMETHING HAPPENED, except to assure you that there are no riddles to be worked out or underlying structures waiting to be discovered. There are accidents, I'm sure, of consistency, and there will be valid patterns discerned that I was not consciously aware of creating, just as there are numerous variations in Slocum's ruminations about the past that are intentional. At the start, he saw his mother and father in bed together. Later on, he only 'thinks' he may have seen them. He is at some times a poor sleeper, at other times a good sleeper. But that's the extent of my subtlety, and none of it, I think, is disguised, and that really is the extent to which I want to explain the book at this time. I am already getting questions from some reviewers asking them to verify their own interpretations of certain parts, and I must demur to reply. My opinion is, and it may be Northrup Fry's, that the work must speak, or be spoken about, on the basis of what it contains, and what readers find in it are more important than what the author intended. Besides, I do want to move away from, rather than closer to, both novels in the hope of finding inspiration for a third...P.S. What is the Harvard? I received a clipping of a good review from there--not merely favorable, but good as a review, I thought, especially for a student, if it was a student.'' Letter has numerous hand-annotations by Heller. On three separate pages of Heller's letterhead, each measuring 7.25'' x 10.25''. Also with original envelope, all in near fine condition.
'...The Catch-14 sheet is proof that my own memory is no longer a reliable source...'' -- Joseph Heller Typed Letter Signed
'...The Catch-14 sheet is proof that my own memory is no longer a reliable source...'' -- Joseph Heller Typed Letter Signed
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Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $500
Final prices include buyers premium.: $1,172
Number Bids: 1
Auction closed on Tuesday, December 18, 2012.
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