Tilting at Mortality: Narrative Strategies in Joseph Heller's Fiction - The Humor in Life & Letters Series (Hardback)David M. Craig (author)
Hardback Published: 31/05/1997
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Unlike other studies of Joseph Heller, which focus on his two primary works, "Catch-22" and "Something Happened", this volume considers Heller's entire career and examines each of his novels on its own terms, including Heller's latest work, "Closing Time". "Tilting at Mortality" pursues two complementary tracks: first, it explores the evolution of Heller's essential subject, human mortality; and second, it delineates his artistic development as a novelist. Mortality - in particular, the death of children or alternatively of wounded innocents - provides Heller with his core story. In "Catch-22", Heller addresses this concern in the Snowden death scene, and with each subsequent novel he has revised and retold this story, always concluding with a wrenching death that occurs in the penultimate chapter. Each novel emerges as another gesture of comic defiance, each constituting a strident, insistent, angry, sometimes eloquent protest againt mortality. If Heller's narrative destination is the same, the means by which he reaches vary with each novel. Craig follows these changes in narrative procedures by focusing on three elements: narrative form, particularly Heller's experimental impulses; style, especially as oral and performative; and correspondences between his fiction and his life. Craig explores the masterplot in which the child's death casts a retrospective light on all that precedes it. Balanced against the complicated textual dynamics of this masterplot is the relative simplicity of Heller's themes and worldview. Heller is a moralist who rages against pretensions, injustices and delusions of society and who advocates the same values that society proclaims but fails to uphold. Heller's novels exist in and because of the tension between his physically complex masterplot and his conventional themes. By contrast, Craig uses Heller's abiding concern with mortality to open previously unexplored areas of his fiction. He examines unpublished writings, especially short stories written in the 1940s, for the way in which they anticipate the novels; looks at aspects of Heller's novels that have never been studied; links more systematically Heller's narrative methods and strategies to his authorial intentions; and traces the development of such characteristic concerns as writers and artists, their aristic artifacts, as well as Heller's own authorial self-consciousness. Craig's book scrutinizes Heller's entire career by examining each novel on its own terms and not by measuring it against "Catch-22".
Publisher: Wayne State University Press
Weight: 658 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 27 mm
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