Something Happened

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Something Happened
First edition
AuthorJoseph Heller
Cover artistPaul Bacon[1]
CountryUnited States
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf
Publication date
September 1974
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
LC ClassPZ4.H47665 So PS3558.E476

Something Happened is Joseph Heller's second novel (published in 1974, thirteen years after Catch-22). Its main character and narrator is Bob Slocum, a businessman who engages in a stream of consciousness narrative about his job, his family, his childhood, his sexual escapades, and his own psyche. Although Something Happened failed to achieve the level of renown that Catch-22 did, it has since developed a cult following, with some considering it one of Heller's finest works.


While there is an ongoing plot about Slocum preparing for a promotion at work, most of the book focuses on detailing various events from his life, ranging from early childhood to his predictions for the future, often in non-chronological order and with little if anything to connect one anecdote to the next. Near the end of the book, Slocum starts worrying about the state of his own sanity as he finds himself hallucinating or remembering events incorrectly, suggesting that some or all of the novel might be the product of his imagination, making him an unreliable narrator.


Something Happened has frequently been criticized as overlong, rambling, and deeply unhappy.[2] These sentiments are echoed in a review of the novel by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., but are balanced with praise for the novel's prose and the meticulous patience Heller took in the creation of the novel, stating, "Is this book any good? Yes. It is splendidly put together and hypnotic to read. It is as clear and hard-edged as a cut diamond. Mr. Heller's concentration and patience are so evident on every page that one can only say that 'Something Happened' is at all points precisely what he hoped it would be."[3] In a contemporary write-up for Kirkus Reviews, the reviewer states that "there is none of the rogue absurdism or imaginative verve" of Heller's previous novel, but praises the book's "bravura, expertise and cumulative hook".[4]

Something Happened has since garnered a small base of devoted fans. In 2015, Carmen Petaccio referred to it as the "most criminally overlooked great novel of the past half century [...] one of the most pleasurable, engrossing, and in retrospect moving American novels ever written."[2] Naturi Thomas-Millard called it the "best book you've never read"; while agreeing that it is overlong, she billed it as "an invaluable study in how to portray the horror of everyday life."[5] Novelist Jonathan Franzen prefers Something Happened to Catch-22,[6] and Christopher Buckley referred to the work as "dark and brilliant".[7] Comedian Richard Lewis claims he "happily lost most of [his] hope" after reading the novel.[8]


  1. ^ Modern first editions - a set on Flickr
  2. ^ a b "What Happened: A Look at Joseph Heller's Forgotten Novel". The Los Angeles Review of Books. May 15, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  3. ^ "Kurt Vonnegut Jr. on 'Something Happened'". Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  4. ^ "Something Happened by Joseph Heller". Kirkus Reviews. October 1, 1974. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
  5. ^ "The Best Book You've Never Read: 'Something Happened' by Joseph Heller". LitReactor. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  6. ^ Wiedeman, Reeves (December 5, 2010). "Reading Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom' With Oprah's Book Club". The Atlantic. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
  7. ^ Buckley, Christopher (2015). But Enough About You: Essays. Simon and Schuster. p. 260. ISBN 978-1476749525.
  8. ^ Lewis, Richard [@TheRichardLewis] (Aug 21, 2013). "I happily lost most of my hope after reading Heller's, "Something Happened" and watched the 1973 French film, "The Mother and the Whore"" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

External links[edit]