Joseph Heller was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of nineteen, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force and was first trained as an armorer, later transferring to cadet school and graduating as a second lieutenant. Sent to Italy, he flew sixty missions as a bombardier. He was discharged as a first lieutenant.
After the war, Heller returned to the United States and resumed his education, attending the University of Southern California; he graduated from New York University in 1948. He married Shirley Held in 1945; they had two children. That marriage ended in divorce, and in 1987, Heller married Valerie Humphries. He received an M.A. degree from Columbia University in 1949 and spent the next year as a Fulbright scholar at Oxford University before teaching for two years at Pennsylvania State University.
Heller left the academic world in 1952 and spent the following decade working for Time and Look magazines as an editor and for McCall’s in the advertising department. During those years he sold some short fiction to Esquire and The Atlantic Monthly and began work on his first novel, Catch-22, which was published in 1961. While the novel did not receive unanimously favorable reviews, it was highly popular from its publication and retained its popularity for a long time. In the first ten years after its release, Catch-22 sold seven million copies in various...
(The entire section is 575 words.)