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Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn in 1923. In 1961, he published Catch-22, which became a bestseller and, in 1970, a film. He went on to write such novels as Good as Gold, God Knows, Picture This, Closing Time (the sequel to Catch-22), and Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. Heller died in December 1999.
*PLEASE NOTE - THIS IS A REVIEW FOR NOTES ON A SCANDAL by Zoe Heller. For some reason this review (after 11 years) got also placed under Joseph Heller's book, Something Happened. I contacted Amazon and they said that they cannot fix this so apologies.
Brief summary (of Notes on a Scandal) and review, no spoilers.
Barbara Covett is a 60ish spinster school teacher, opinionated, intelligent and very lonely. She becomes good friends with Sheba Hart, a beautiful, popular 42 year old new teacher who has just arrived at Barbara's school. The novel is told from the point-of-view of Barbara, as she befriends Sheba and discovers that Sheba may be having an affair with one of Sheba's young students.
When I heard about the plot of this book, I have to admit I wasn't all that interested in reading it. But I picked up the book and read the first page and found it utterly compelling and an engrossing and intelligent read.
Part of the brilliance of this novel is the way you learn about both characters by listening to the narrator, the aptly named Barbara Covett. All is not what it seems and the author does a wonderful job making these characters very real people. Heller does a wonderful job showing how single women relate to those married with children and how people deal with loneliness and routine. She also shows how we make rationalizations about ourselves and our actions in order to justify our beliefs that we are good, honorable people.
I highly recommend this novel for any book clubs. It would make for a great discussion,and I think that everyone is going to have a different opinion about each of these two women. Not only is this novel an intelligent read, but it's a fun one also. This book is a page-turner that leaves you thinking about it and wanting to talk about it with your friends..what more can you ask for?
The title of this book by Joseph Heller is "Something Happened." Another title could have been "Life: The Book." This is one of the very, very few books I know that accurately and realistically portrays real life - life as it actually is - warts and all. The book I read immediately before this one was James Joyce's much-touted masterwork, Ulysses. Now, that book can, and has been, described the same way by many, and it is, in many ways, the very last word on realism. That said, it has much in common with this book, and Something Happened is, in many ways, the better book. Classicists and romanticists may well prefer Joyce's novel and consider it downright blasphemy to have it compared with this modern masterwork, but the fact is, this is a very good and much underrated book, and will probably be preferred by post-modernists and existentialists over Ulysses. The book is very long - nearly 600 pages - and does have a tendency to ramble at times - often seemingly without a point. It's written in the style of a first-person narrative, and this is one of the few books where you truly get into the head of the main character. That is the main difference between this book and Ulysses: unlike the latter work, which follows the adventures of three separate characters as they follow parallel courses and sometimes intertwine, Something Happened consists entirely of one character's thoughts and actions. And, since it deals only with other people insofar as they relate to him, it can get a bit solipsistic at times - however, that said, Heller's intention with this book (I think) was to accurately and realistically describe the thoughts in the head of a fairly normal, everyday American male. He does a rather remarkable job of this.Read more ›
This is Heller's masterpiece, not the vastly overrated Catch 22. That book was an entertainment; this one is a work of art. It might be described as a portrait of Hell, set in the affluent suburbs of Connecticut. I read this work twenty years ago, and it's still vivid in my mind (how many books can one say that about?). In fact, I checked in to the Amazon site because I plan to read it again and was curious to see what others had said about it. Heller's powers of description are awesome, as is his ability to `explore' his protagonist's psyche. I felt I was right there with Bob Slocumb, inside his mind. A disagreeable individual he may be, but he is also infinitely human, and as another reviewer stated, a modern American Everyman, with whom (alas) I identified. I read through some of the previous Amazon reviews and am baffled by those who panned this book and said it was tedious. On the contrary, I found it a real page-turner. The writing is fresh and moves right along. Perhaps those reviewers who hated it were expecting another Catch 22, or in some way approached it with pre-set ideas as to what a novel should be and were therefore disappointed. The `repetitiveness' that some complained about was neither sloppy writing on Heller's part, nor careless work by his editor. It serves the purpose of getting inside the character's mind and portraying his life, and it held my attention throughout. Is every thought or feeling that each of us have day in and day out always startling and fresh, and do we never repeat ourselves? I think not. The portrait Heller creates is masterful. Next to some of the post-modern, magic realism dreck that passes for fiction these days, Something Happened is incomparable. By all means, pick this book up; you won't be disappointed, unless you're expecting it to be something else.
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