Heller, Joseph: Something Happened
(researched by Timothy Schott)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Joseph Heller. Something Happened. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright 1966 and 1974 by Scapegoat Productions, Inc. 

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first edition is published in Black Hardcover Cloth with a dust Jacket. 

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

290 leaves. pp. [4] [1-3] 4-10 [11-13] 14-67 [68-71] 72-126 [127-129] 130-213 [214-217] 218-355 [356-359] 360-499 [500-503] 504-546 [547-549] 550-562 [563-565] 566-569 [1]

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

The book is not edited or introduced.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

The book does not contain illustrations. 

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The presentation of the reserve copy studied is bright and lively. A yellow dust jacket features the author’s name in red, capital letters and the work’s title in black on its front cover. There are some smudges on the dust jacket but nothing too jarring. The spine of the dust jacket features a shrunk version of the dust jacket’s cover as well as the publisher’s name and logo in black at the bottom. The reverse of the jacket features a black and white photograph of the author that takes up the entire back cover. Lighting and shadows are at play in the photograph, as the right side of Heller’s features are much lighter than his left. "Nancy Crampton," presumably the photographer of the portrait, has her name stamped in tiny capital letters on the back edge of the jacket. 

The book, cover included, stands at 43 centimeters tall. So, there is a definite heft to the book—it certainly feels like a work that contains over 250 leaves.

A leaf will measure 210 centimeters in height by approximately 140 centimeters in length. The 30 centimeter horizontal margins are generous, but not overlarge. The typeface is clean, though a bit lightly printed. However, even in a circulated first edition copy of the work, the text is easy to read, so the typeface is no doubt resilient.

Page numbers are 30 centimeters from the side of a page and 15 centimeters from the top of a page.

Chapters are not numbered, only named. A chapter is introduced on its own page, with its title appearing above a horizontal rule line. The verso of a chapter title page contains nothing. The following page contains the start of the chapter about 80 centimeters, or 2/5’s of the way down the page. This page is unnumbered. The text of this page is uniform in size and capitalization. 

A “normal” left page contains the page number, a bullet point, and the works title in Capitalized Italics at the top. The tracking in the title's font is pretty big; the letters are noticeably far apart. A "normal" right page contains the title of the chapter with normal tracking. This is found at the top of the page. The first letter of the first word of the chapter is capitalized. The rest of the title is in lower case. This is followed by a bullet point and the page number. 

The final leaf of the book is unnumbered and follows the closing of the story. It is a description of the book’s font. 


[rule line]

"The text of this book was set on the Linotype in a face called Primer, designed by Rudolph Ruzicka, who was earlier responsible for the design of Fairfield and Fairfield Medium, Linotype faces whose virtues have for some time now been accorded wide recognition."

"The complete range of sizes of Primer was first made available in 1954, although the pilot size of 12-point was read as early as 1951. The design of the face makes general reference to Linotype Century—long a serviceable type, totally lacking in manner or frills of any kind—but brilliantly corrects its characterless quality."

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is wove and white. It is quite smooth. It sports a handsome deckled edge. The tops of the pages are dyed in a light red color not dissimilar to Communion Wine. The bottom of the pages show slight signs of wear, with tiny frayings of paper begging to form. The paper is stain free and obviously well preserved. 

11 Description of binding(s)

The dust jacket fits snugly over the work. Its interior is a cream white with black lettering.

The spine of the work is sewn with an attractive yellow and red pattern. The reserve edition studied for this investigation had a robust, well-kept spine. The spine contains the work’s title and author in large, gold capital letters, with the publisher beneath them in a much smaller typeface in the same gold color. The front cover of the jacket is embossed with “JH,” the author’s initials. The logo of the publisher is subtly printed on the bottom right corner of the back of the cover. It is difficult to notice upon a cursory examination.

The final leaf that contains a description of the font also provides information about the book's binding:

"This book was composed, printed and bound by The Book Press, Brattleboro, Vermont."

"Typography and binding design by Cynthia Krupat."

12 Transcription of title page

Something / Happened

[rule line]

Joseph / Heller

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

No manuscript holdings for the work were found at this time.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Dust Jacket, inside front flap: 

"This is Joseph Heller’s first novel since Catch-22, which was published in 1961 and has become the most celebrated novel of its decade—speaking for and to an entire American Generation. Something Happened is different from Catch-22 both in substance and tone, but it is certain to have a comparable effect."

    [star]   [star]    [star]

"As it opens, “he gets the willies.” At the end, he has “taken command.”"

"What happens in Something Happened happens to Bob Slocum—in his forties, contending with his office (where just about everybody is scared of somebody), trying to come to grips with his wife (“You did it,” she says. “You made me this way….”), with his daughter (she’s “unhappy”), with his son (he’s “having difficulties”), and with his other son, and with his own past and his own present."

"Like his own children, like all children, Slocum once was new, valuable, eagerly waiting to grow into the good life sure to come. Now he is what he is, and his life is what it is."

"What happened? (What happens?)"


The top right of this flap notes that the original price was $10.00.

Dust Jacket, inside back flap: "Joseph Heller was born in 1923 in Brooklyn, New York. He is married and has two children, lives in Manhattan, and teaches at City College. He is the author of Catch-22 and the play We Bombed In New Haven."

"Jacket design by Paul Bacon"

"Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher, New York"



The inside of the cover of the edition from Special Collections is a part of UVa's Taylor Collection. So, it bears a few special markings. First, its inside cover contains a lithograph of Mr and Mrs Taylor sitting across from one another. The first leaf contains, in pencil, a mark in the top right corner that says “1st Edition” followed by what looks to the number 55. The inside of the back cover contains a sticker from the “University of Virginia Library Rare Book Room” and the call number Taylor 1974 .H45 565, and, above that, in pencil: “G-8” / “[illegible]35” / “10549"

The edition that is in normal circulation has been entirely rebound. The call number is PS3558 E476 S6 1974. It contains a “rebinding slip” immediately upon opening the work. As such it does not have a dust jacket or pretty pages. it instead bears a stock “Something Happened” / “Heller” on the binding follow by its UVa call number, and a sticker on the front with a bar code used by library personnel to check the book out. It contains a circulation sticker that shows it was checked out 8 times between 1985 and 1992. The copy is in fair condition, with numerous smudges and stains spotting the leaves. 

Images were taken with an iPhone 8's rear camera. The UVa Special Collections library allows visitors to take photographs, however, the following message (printed onto a clear bookmark) typically affixes all photographs taken on site:

"The original in this digital image is housed in:"

"Special Collections"

"University of Virginia Library"

"Charlottesville Virginia, 22904-4110"

"No further copies can be made."


Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A


2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

Per Publisher’s Weekly, August 19, 1974: 100,000.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Corgi Books, 1974

Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1974

Simon and Schuster, 1974

Ballantine Books, 1974

Vintage, 1995

Gyan Pvt. Ltd., 2016

6 Last date in print?

It is still in print as of February 2018.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

Per Publisher’s Weekly, February 3, 1975, Something Happened sold 143,276 copies as of 1974. This was good enough to place it at 5th in their best selling fiction list. The 1975 Bowker Annual corroborates this number, as it reprints the Publisher’s Weekly information.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

Per Publisher’s Weekly, February 3, 1975, Something Happened sold 143,276 copies in 1974. It sold for $10 a copy in its first iteration. 

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

Publisher’s Weekly, August 1974: “Fall Announcements”

“This extraordinary novel, the most controversial and talked-about book of the autumn, is a work to which one either becomes instantly and totally committed or something one will simply not be able to either stand or understand. For this reviewer it is a work of genuine brilliance, a novel as different in mood from “Catch-22” as possible, but just as devastating in its perception of the American scene today in terms of business, marital, familial responsibilities as Heller’s first novel was in its merciless concentration on what World War II really did to people. Bob Slocum, when we first meet him, seems almost a nice guy, scared of his job, his bosses, uncertain and baffled in his marriage, confused about his children, but in terms we can understand and to which we can relate. If he always takes the easy way out, whether it is in helping to knife an old friend in the back, put down his wife, who drinks too much, whore around a bit, snarl at his son and his daughter, push off to another plane the acknowledgement that his “other son” is a retarded vegetable, he is only doing, after all, what so many, many others of us do every day of our lives in order to survive and to persuade ourselves that this kind of survival is really living. When the “something” does happen in the briefest sparest section of the novel, it is true horror. In almost 600 pages, deliberately and quite consciously circling back on himself again and again, with an increasing psychological power at each circling of the loop, Heller has written a true novel of our times, and every minute of the television news with its revelations of what America has become confirms his insight. He is also a magnificent stylist.”

Publisher’s Weekly, September 1974: “Indexes and Forecasts”

Heller, Joseph. Something Happened. Knopf. $10; signed boxed edition $20. 10/16.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

A signed boxed copy of the novel appeared, limited to 350 copies. They included the following transcription:


12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A


13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Der er Sket Noget (Danish, 1974) translator Mogens Boisen

Een incident “Something happened” (Dutch, 1974) translator Guido Golüke

Jotakin on tapahtunut (Finnish, 1975) translator Erkki Vainikkala

E’ successo qualcosa (Italian, 1975) translator Attilio Veraldi)

Det Har Hendt Noe (Norwegian, 1975)

Was geschah mit Slocum? (German, 1977)

Valami Torent (Hungarian, 1978)

Что-то случилось роман (Russian, 1978) translator R. Oblonskoj

Nekaj se je Zgodilo (Slovenian, 1978) translator Gitica Jakopin

Panique (French, 1979) translator Josane and Marianne Duranteau

Niečo sa stalo (Slovak, 1983)

Pânico (Portuguese, 1988) translator J. Teixeira de Aguilar

出事了 / (Chinese, 1991) [translator not found]

Něco se stalo (Czech, 2000) translator Antonín Přidal

Coś się stało (Polish, 2003) [translator not found]

Nånting har hänt (Swedish, 2005) translator Caj Lundgren

Algo ha Pasado (Spanish, 2013) translator Lucrecia Moreno de Saenz


14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A

Excerpts first appeared in Esquire in September of 1966. These excerpts spanned about 6 pages and gave an introductory snapshot of the work. It also included illustrations by Gervasio Gellardo. The contrast between Esquire's decadent advertising and a fraction of Heller’s sobering snapshot of the modern, incorporated world makes for an interesting presentation to the reader. It would be tantamount to putting a Kafka story in the middle of an LL Bean catalogue. 

15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Joseph Heller was born on May 1, 1923 in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. Heller was the son of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Isaac and Lena Heller. His father died when Heller was five years old. Following high school graduation in 1941, Heller flirted with a career in the insurance industry before enlisting in the United States Army Air Corps in October 1942. Heller carried out over 60 bombing missions. He emerged from the war with a head filled with ideas about the futility and—famously, humor—inherent in war. He used the GI bill to fund his undergraduate education at New York University. Heller then obtained a Master’s degree in English from Columbia University in 1949. His literary promise was clear; in 1949 Heller was named a Fulbright Scholar and spent a year studying English literature at Oxford. He taught at Pennsylvania State University and wrote advertising copy for Look and Time before the idea for his breakthrough debut novel, Catch-22, struck him.

According to The New York Times, the work’s opening lines popped into his head on a fateful morning in 1953: “It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, Someone fell madly in love with him.” From there he began squirreling away the draft pages and—much like one of his idols, Nabokov, index cards—that would serve as the backbone of the story. Interestingly, the work was originally titled “Catch-18.” However, according to Sanford Pinsker, the title was changed before publishing to avoid confusion with a contemporary bestseller, Mila-18. Heller, 38 at the time, put forth a massively successful and riotous exhibit of the horrors of war. The New York Times points out the significance of his agent, Candida Donadio, and editor, Robert Gottlieb, in the timeline of Heller’s success. Grievously for Heller, like any great “breakout” star, he was dogged by the popularity of Catch-22 for his entire career.

 His follow up novel, Something Happened, was properly published in 1974. This work transfers the lucid humor of Catch-22 to a hectic, domestic environ in a wry fashion. However, you would be hard pressed to find an account of Heller’s life that hails him as “the author of Something Happened(or anything else for that matter); posterity will always remember him as the man who wrote Catch-22. Heller spent the 1960s and 1970s teaching at the University of Pennsylvania and the City College of New York. His subsequent literary output included the novels Good as Gold and Picture This. These works are understood to lack the incisive grip of his earlier works.

Heller recovered from an unfortunate diagnosis of Guillain-Barré syndrome in 1981. He documented his experience in an autobiography, No Laughing Matter. The 1990s saw Heller’s work turn retrospective before he ultimately passed away on December 12, 1999 in East Hampton, New York.

Heller’s archival material, including manuscript holdings, scrapbooks and correspondence, are housed in the library repositories at Pennsylvania State University and the University of South Carolina

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

You are not logged in. (Sign in)