- -- 'The Realist' An Impolite Interview With Joseph Heller Q. Has Catch-22 been banned anywhere? A. No. Q. Are you disappointed? A. Not anymore. I'm really delighted because it seems to have offended nobody on the grounds of morality or ideology. Those people it has of fended, it has offended on the basis of literary value, But I'm almost sur prised to find that the acceptance of the book covers such a broad political spectrum and sociological spectrum as well. This pleases me first because it pleases my ego, but next because I put anoptimistic interpretation on it: I think there is close to a common reser voir ofdiscontent among people who might disagree with each other and not realize thattheir basic disagreements might stem from the same rec ognition of a need for
correction in certain areas. I learned from Murray Kempton's column also--and this to my surprise that it'squite an orthodox book in terms of its morality. He referred to its being almostmedieval in its moral orthodoxy, which had not occurred to me. But of course assoon as I read his column, I realized he was correct. I suppose just about everybodyaccepts certain principles of morality. The differences appear in testing certaininstitutions against those basic princi ples. There is a tradition of taboo against submitting to examination many of our ideological beliefs, religious beliefs; many things that become a matter of traditional behavior, or habit, acquire status where they seem to be ex empt from examination. Or even to suggest that they do be examined becomes a form of heresy. Now the book might be surprising in that respect, but with the excep tion ofa certain appreciation for lechery, which you wouldn't find among the basicvirtues; you might find it among the deadly sins I don't think SOURCE: The Realist, Vol. 39 (November 1962), pp. 18-31. Reprinted by permission of the publisher and Mr. Heller. 273 --.-.- 274 The Realist . An Impolite Intervicw with Joseph Heller 275 ' - ' eini' TODO PROCESADOR there's any principle of morality advocated in the book with which most intelligent-even indecent-people will disagree. 0. Well, wiren I was reading it, I first did a double take when Yossarian is censoring the letters, and my sympathy immediately fell to the people who were getting these letters. A. Really? Well, that hadn't occurred to me. They probably have the same status as the victims during a Shakespeare play. When critics deal in terms of classical tragedy-when they interpret Shakespearean tragedy they see this as an examination of crime, the tragic flaw, and the retribu tion as representing a certain system of justice; but they ignore, let's say in Macbeth, all those children ofwas it Macduff or Malcolm?--his wife is killed, his children are killed, and Banquo is slaughtered. All the peripheral characters seem to be exempt from the working out of this moral principle.