Monday, October 24, 2005


While it’s true that I got kicked out of high school and only completed the 9th grade (see my bio), it’s not true that I went through life with a 9th grade education. That is just a brag on my part and an “in your face” at the school system that I did my best to not attend. You might find it hard to believe how much we hated each other.

(So you’ve been lying all this time about that 9th grade education.)

(Can I say I took some Clintonesque liberties with the truth?)

(In other words, you were lying.)


Later in life I accumulated a mass of college credits while attending a dozen or more colleges and universities. Not nearly as many credits I could have gotten if I had finished every course I had started, but if a course or instructor began to bore me, I’d dump it.

(Hey clown writer! How many I’s and me’s do you have in that sentence?)

(Who’s counting?)

I would totally discombobulate faculties. They had no control over me because I wasn’t attending their school for a credit or a grade. I was only there for an education. It was a concept completely foreign to them.

(What the hell does this have to do with Catch 22?)

(I’m leading up to it. Some day I’m going to write about my experiences with higher education.)

(Well be sure you don’t title it Catch 22 when you do.)

One of the courses I took was for comedy writing at UCLA. The instructor had impeccable credentials. He had been a writer for Mad Magazine and was a multiple Emmy winner as a writer on The Carol Burnett Show.

This titan of the industry turned out to be this little, insecure, Jewish guy.

(Well now I’m outraged. Now you’re an anti-Semite.)

(What did I say? He was little. He was insecure. He was Jewish.)

(Yeah. But I know where you’re going.)

We had some bull sessions in this class. Those were the things I liked most. During these I expressed my admiration for Lenny Bruce (see In Memory of Lennie Bruce in the Feb. archive) and for the movie Young Frankenstein among other things. Whenever I mentioned an enterprise that had involved Jews this instructor at UCLA would seem to inflate. I perceived him to grow inches taller. But a mention of a non-Jewish entertainer or enterprise would bring him back to his normal size.

(You were probably sticking pins into him.)

(Then who was blowing him up?)

(So what does this have to do with Catch 22?)

Then the discussion got around to novels. I had to say that Catch 22 was “The Great American Novel.” I called it a literary masterpiece. I said that Mark Twain was the pioneer and he had paved the way for the ultimate novel which was Catch 22.

It was only then, when I saw our little Jewish instructor inflate to King Kong proportions, that I surmised that the author of Catch 22, Joseph Heller, was a Jew.

Heller was inspired while writing this book. Athletes call it being “in the zone.” He caught a shooting star. For some people it comes and goes. For some it only happens once. Since it took Heller 16 years to finish the book, you can’t say he only was inspired briefly. But he put everything he had into this one book. Everything he had. And it’s all there between the covers.

(That’s it? You call that a revue?)

This thing is too long now. I will say one thing more. Some movements have tried to claim this book as their own, saying it expresses one thing or another.

I point out that Yossarian, the protagonist, had completed all the combat missions that were originally required. He only wanted to stay alive.


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