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January 30, 1987 - Image 56

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-01-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ENTERTAINMENT

SUNPISE Cikft.

WAFFLES _

OMELETTES

OUR 3RD LOCATION-29556 ORCHARD LAKE RD. BET 13 804-626-0804

15600 W. 10 MILE RD.
AT GREENFIELD (New Orleans Mall)

28505 NORTHWESTERN
AT BECK RD.

552-1100

Continued from preceding page

357-2009

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Sun. 8 a.m.4 p.m.

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Cocktails

Whole Maine Lobster
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56

Friday, January 30, 1987

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Heller

p.m. in the Power Center.
It was Heller's battle against
Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a
mysterious and often fatal
form of paralysis, which sent
him to East Hampton to recup-
erate in 1981, and was the sub-
ject of No Laughting Matter.
In a telephone interview
with The Jewish News, the
63-year-old writer said that at
the time he was newly di-
vorced, and loathed the idea of
being cooped up in a Manhat-
tan apartment for six months,
confined to a wheelchair. He is
now almost fully recovered.
Since his illness, "life has
gotten very much better. Liv-
ing here is much more reward-
ing for me, much more peace-
ful."
He is at work on a new novel
and says he has nearly com-
pleted the first draft. The book
"deals mainly with Aristotle
and it deals with Rembrandt.
The connection has to do with
Rembrandt's painting of Aris-
totle contemplating the bust of
Homer," he explains.
"It was a thought about that
painting that led me to con-
tinue thinking, and it un-
folded, and I saw possibilities
of a book."
It is these surreal twists, like
the subject of the work of art
contemplating the subject of
another work of art, that have
become Heller's trademark.
"Catch-22," Heller's paradoxi-
cal rule, has entered the world
vocabulary.
The father of Catch-22 says
he is gratified that his work
has taken on a life of his own,
but that it is only a "byproduct"
of his efforts. More important
to him is that his work has
brought recognition as a seri-
ous novelist and financial suc-
cess.
Catch-22's 25th anniversary
was celebrated last October by
the U.S. Air Force Academy,
where the black comedy about
a corrupt World War II fighter
squadron is now required read-
ing.
Heller's literature is littered
with unhappy Jews, bickering
families, soulless automations.
Heller does not seem to
choose the subjects of his works
as much as they choose him.
The narrator and central char-
acter of God Knows is King
David but, says Heller, "I did
not begin by saying 'I want to
write a book about King
David.'
"With God Knows, it was the
sentence: 'I've got the best
story in the Bible. Where's the
competition?' That's the way
the idea of God Knows occurred
to me. Without my knowing it,
within a few minutes, I knew it
was David who was speaking."
Although he read the Bible
and other background mate-
rials, Heller's book is not really
a historical novel. In God
Knows, long passages of the
King James Bible slide into
mock King James Bible
English and come crashing to-
gether with colloquial Ameri-
can English, and references to

events from King David's time
to our own. That and David's
disdain for traditional
Judaism, a common attitude is
assimilated Jewish America,
places the book, a kind of
Borscht Belt midrash,
squarely in the late 20th Cen-
tury.
Viewed another way, Heller
seems to be making fun of the
grownups. "There is a good
deal of that implicit and
explicit in God Knows," he ad-
mits. "But for me it was also
texturally correct, writing a
book not about the Bible or the
King David of the Bible, but
about somebody who was pre-
tty much telling the story to-
day."
Heller says he wanted to be a
writer since he was a kid. "One
reason was that I was good at it
in elementary school."
Brooklyn-born, Heller as a
child was "witty, humorous
and played a lot of practical
jokes. Many of the practical
jokes I would call kind of
wicked. But I was also biting
my nails when I was seven
years old. Retrospectively, I
can see that there was a kind of
tension."
He wrote Catch-22 in the
late 1950s while working as a
promotion executive for
McCall's magazine. The
novel's publication did not
spell financial independence,
however. That did not come
until Something Happened.
During the 13 intervening
years Heller worked on his
novel, did other sorts of writing
for income and taught. He
spent five years teaching
English full time at the City
College of New York.
Heller's work clearly reflects
the point of view of first gener-
ation American Jews. In his
work there is an ongoing
treatment of his generation's

conflict with the previous gen-
eration of European im-
migrants, and relationships
between parents and children,
fathers and sons.
"I'm aware of differences be-
tween my generation and the
previous generation, my par-
ents' generation," he says. "I
think that's one of the themes
of Good . As Gold. You have
Bruce Gold . . . trying to write a
book on the Jewish experience
in America without knowing
what it is, and realizing he's
living it. It's much different
than what his parents are liv-
ing.
"I'm very conscious of that.
The next generation I don't
know about."
What is an average day for
Joseph Heller? "For the last
five years, since I've been out of
New York City, I wake up, I
have my typical breakfast,
which is half a grapefruit and
three cups of coffee. I read the
newspaper. Then I begin work-
ing. And I work as long as I can,
until I run out of ideas, ideas
for language, which will be two
to 232 hours. Then I stop."
Another writing session fol-
lows lunch and another in the
evening. Writing longhand,
Heller says he finishes the
equivalent of about four
typewritten pages a day by fol-
lowing this schedule.
Does he laugh along as he
writes as his readers might
when they read his books? No,
Heller answers. "Most of the
humorous parts have already
occurred to me" while taking
notes for the book.
Heller seems to have hit his
stride and he wants to keep it
up. "If I were to retire right
now," he asserts, "my life
wouldn't be any different. I
would continue writing be-
cause that's what I want to
do." ❑

GOING PLACES

Continued from preceding page

THEATER

HILBERRY THEATRE:Wayne
State University, Amadeus, 8
p.m. today, As You Like It, 8
p.m. Saturday, admission, 577-
2972.

WILL-O-WAY REPERTORY
THEATRE: 2253 Cole, Birming-
ham, Isn't It Romantic, 8:30
p.m. today and Saturday, ad-
mission, 644-4418.

ATTIC THEATRE: 7339 Third
Ave. at West Grand Blvd., Ma
Rainey's Black Bottom, now
through Feb. 15, admission,
875-8285.

MEADOW BROOK THEATRE:
Oakland University, Rochester,
A Flea In Her Ear, 8 p.m. Thurs-
day through Feb. 22, admission,
377-3300.

BONSTELLE THEATRE: Wayne
State University, Detroit, You
Never Can Tell, 8 p.m. today
and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday,
admission, 577 2972.

-

DOWNTOWN DINNER THEA-
TER: Veterans Memorial Build-

ing banquet hall, They're Play-
ing Our Song, presented by
Jimmy Launce Productions,
cocktails 6:30 p.m., dinner at 7,
curtain at 8:45 today, every Fri-
day and Saturday, admission,
reservations, 224-6000.

THE VILLAGE PLAYERS: 752

Chestnut, Birmingham, The
Children's Hour, 8:30 p.m.
today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sun-
day, admission, 644-2075.

ART SHOWS

IS INC. GALLERY: 13 S.
Saginaw, Pontiac, Protocol an
exhibit by Bruce Thayer, Wed-
nesday through Mar. 3, recep-
tion, 8-10 p.m. Wednesday, 9

p.m.-2 a.m. Wednesday, Friday
and Saturday, 7 p.m.-midnight
Sunday, 332-5780.

Continued on Page 63

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