Sports equals long and healthy living for those who do it, entertainment for those who watch it, and profit for those who coach and manage. A by-product of sporting events is usually a piece of metal that gets hung around the winner’s neck. But is it of any real value to humanity? If you ask satirical novelist Joseph Heller, the answer is no.
Born on May 1, 1923 in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, Heller was the son of poor Jewish parents, Lena and Isaac Donald Heller, who originated from Russia. Heller loved to write from an early age and he reportedly knew he wanted to do this for a living at around age 10. He was not deterred when the New York Daily News rejected his story about the Russian invasion of Finland.
Had he let this episode hinder his pursuit to become a writer, the following line would have probably never been written:
Like Olympic medals and tennis trophies, all they signified was that the owner had done something of no benefit to anyone more capably than anyone else.
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
The line originates from Heller’s famous satirical novel, Catch-22. He began writing it in 1953 but was only published in 1961. The book is regarded as one of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century and uses an atypical third-person omniscient narration. It’s non-chronological and describes events from the points of view of different characters, creating separate story lines that are not necessarily in sync.
In 1981 Heller was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome, which left him temporarily paralyzed. He later made a full recovery and even went on to marry one of the nurses appointed to look after his well being – Valerie Humphries. In December 1999, shortly after completing his final novel, “Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man,” Heller died of a heart attack at his home in East Hampton (Long Island).