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Saturday, December 12, 2009

To Heller, and Back

Christopher Buckley has a fun op-ed in NYT today on his friend Joseph "Catch-22" Heller, marking his death exactly 10 years ago. I knew Joe some, too. Catch-22 was virtually my favorite all-time book when I scored a real coup in 1972 -- getting him to sit, implausibly, for two-part interview for Crawdaddy. He had not chatted at length with anyone about his lack of a followup to that classic for the past decade. I can't recall exactly why he responded to me.

We taped a couple of sessions at his writing studio on Central Park South and he was, as Buckley notes, warm and funny (as one might expect), especially about Nixon. He later took me to lunch and, horrors, I left the tape of the talk in a taxi. He loved the stories, anyway, and soon gave me for Crawdaddy an unpublished section of his stage version for Catch-22. (Read it here.) Then he gave us serial rights to that long-awaited novel, Something Happened. Finally, a few years later, he tried to help me sell my first novel, to no avail.

We stayed in touch a bit after that, then lost touch. But anyway: Catch-22 and Yowsarian will endure. Buckley lists some of the recent topics Joe would have fun with such as "Peace Prize Winner Escalates War."

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