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Something Happened

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  7,101 ratings  ·  531 reviews
Bob Slocum was living the American dream. He had a beautiful wife, three lovely children, a nice house...and all the mistresses he desired. He had it all -- all, that is, but happiness. Slocum was discontent. Inevitably, inexorably, his discontent deteriorated into desolation until...something happened.
Something Happened is Joseph Heller's wonderfully inventive and contro
Paperback, 576 pages
Published November 12th 1997 by Simon Schuster (first published 1974)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,101 ratings  ·  531 reviews

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Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
This is an amazingly great book...and I generally recommend against reading it.

This book takes place entirely inside the head of a middle-aged, upper middle-class, middle manager. He is not a nice person. He is not a unique person. He is not a particularly interesting person...except for the stunning detail in which we get to know him. We see--no--we live through his insecurities, his sex drive, his job, his nostalgia, his insecurities, his wife, his sex drive, his humor, his insecurities, his d
Michael Ferro
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A criminally underrated classic, SOMETHING HAPPENED is easily one of the most impressive and convincing first-person narratives of an unlikeable narrator I have ever come across. Joseph Heller is one of my favorite authors, with CATCH-22 perhaps being my favorite novel of all time, and yet, it took my over two decades to make my way to SOMETHING HAPPENED. Heller worked for more than a decade on this massive tome and it shows on every page.

Bob Slocum is a despicable man, wholly American in natur
Paul Bryant
May 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels, abandoned
This novel arrived on my shelf (I can’t remember why now) too late, decades too late. A big black-hole slab of white middle class American male self-loathing… mmmm, who would not want to slurp that up?

The two targets of this book : office life in a big company and family life somewhere in the suburbs. Like I say, the white middle class.


After reading David Foster Wallace’s brilliant hot mess The Pale King, and Sinclair Lewis’s heartfelt poignant Babbitt and Joyce Carol Oates’ blistering r
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Something Happens

Contrary to popular belief, something does happen in this novel, in two pages towards the end. You could even argue that two things happen, one good, one bad. It’s not that important to know what they are, quite apart from spoiler concerns, because what is more important is what happened before the narrator, marketing executive Bob Slocum, starts his story.

This something or these things happened to him and to his children, but he doesn’t know what they are. It means something t
MJ Nicholls
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A scathing howl of rage and despair from the school of Céline, Bernhard, and Miller. Your repugnant host is WASPish Republican lower executive Bob Slocum, tunnelling—in a breathtakingly lucid stream of hypnotic and explosive bomb-strength paragraphs—into the fieriest hells of middle-class melancholia with the savage spadework of William Kohler from Gass’s The Tunnel. Heller’s narrator is reminiscent of Bernhard’s obsessive, repetitive outcasts, trapped in self-made ouroboros of incipient madness ...more
Thomas Strömquist
Update May 2019:

I just wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to all that for reasons unbeknownst to me ‘liked’ my old review now in mid-2019. As I’m noting that point in time, I’m absolutely flustered about the significance. Actually, and I’m a bit sad to tell you younger people, it’s not ‘like’ everyone before us said - it is exactly like they said. Time slips away.

Looking back now, I can’t seem to fit all the happenings that I remember in quite the few years that was - evidently - my adolescence and
Matthew Fitzgerald
May 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I know Bob Slocum. I hate Bob Slocum. I am far too often too much like Bob Slocum.

What do you make of 550+ pages of internal narration, with no discernible plot, no character growth, no catharsis after reading the darkest, most selfish, most petulant and childish and sad and real meanderings of a middle American mind? You get Heller's Something Happened, and you get one man's view of what has happened to the American dream.

I find it hard to write about this book without knowing when and how it c
It was love at first sight (pun intended) and my affection with Catch-22 continues for over a decade. It is strange that I never thought of reading another one of Joseph Heller's, until one of my close mates bought "Something Happened" for me. I would have abandoned this book at the first 20 pages, if not for that kind soul who gifted it and the lingering memories of Catch-22. In hindsight, I should have moved on.

You are on a crowded bus, the journey is tedious, you don't how long it is gonna ta
Leo Robertson
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In love, concussed, exhausted, and back tomorrow with a review :)

The Review

Phew! Okay: I’m going to focus only on the universality of Bob’s experience and not the time-and-place context of the thing.

The Failure of Pessimism

Isn’t that cool? I’m not sure I want to be taken seriously as a reviewer because I generally just reflect on whatever I gained from the book. What the hell is a book review? I don’t really know. Wait until you see how not-a-book-review this is, by the way. I’ve tangentially ta
Kevin Adams
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Doing a Heller read this year. Catch-22 is obviously an outstanding book. First book or otherwise. A terrific achievement. Something Happened blew my mind. Can you imagine the conversation? “So, Mr. Heller, what are you planning to write next? Your first book was such a success! What are you thinking?” Here comes Bob Slocum, easily one of the more despicable characters in American fiction. Just a terrible dude. What made this great is Joseph Heller telling the world that’s ok to write people in ...more
Timothy Miyahara
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller The storyline reminds me of a story I heard about Joseph Heller, known more for the modern classic Catch-22.

He was at a cocktail party in Connecticut and someone pointed out a hedge fund manager and remarked that, "He makes more in a year than you ever made for writing Catch-22."

Heller replied, "Yeah, but I have something he'll never have."

His host said, "Really? What's that?"

A truly excellent novel from the author of Catch 22. Written with the same satiric style, this novel follows the rather tedious life of Bob Slocum. He is an office worker, who loves office politics and dislikes three quarters of his immediate family members. Nothing much happens until the end of this 600 page novel, and we simply listen to Slocum's monologue about his life.

He's not meant to be likeable (although I did find his dry humour hilarious in parts). He is a rambling middle age man who
Alissa Hattman
Jul 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is the sad story about Bob Slocum: business man, husband and father. Written in 1st person, largely inside the mind of Slocum, we see true unhappiness as he pines for a better career, has unsatisfying affairs with secretaries and office workers, and constantly wishes for a better family and better life. The drive of this tell-all confessional of Slocum's, is the curiosity as to which, of all his unhappy situations, will be the most destructive. I thought, as I neared the end, that Heller mi ...more
Karl Marx S.T.
Jun 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion, this is Joseph Heller’s best novel, bar none.

Something Happened is Mr. Heller’s second novel, published in 1974 and is thirteen years after his great first novel, Catch-22.

The protagonist Bob Slocum, narrates the story in his stream of consciousness about his family, his childhood, and sexual escapades. The novel is pretty thick that you might have second thoughts about reading it. There are moments in the book where i found myself confuse on what’s happening (and it’s overly repe
Mike Frost
Jun 28, 2010 rated it did not like it
Let me preface this by saying that despite the single star rating, I think Joseph Heller is an amazing author. Catch-22 is definitely one of the best books of all time, and technically Heller's writing is quite good in Something Happened.

That said, I thoroughly disenjoyed this book. It was actively unfun. It took Joseph Heller about three times as long to say exactly what Steinbeck did in The Winter of Our Discontent -- and he said it less interestingly. This story of unhappiness with the modern
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
Something happened…and I still can’t figure out what it is. With Heller’s careful and passionate dialogues along with profound character development, he successfully produced his second book about nothing. There are few authors that can write an entire novel without a plot and still make it encapsulating and powerful. I take my hat off to Mr. Heller, especially when he identifies many of our empty words and selfish tendencies in our interpersonal relationships. It will scare you to read the absu ...more
Leo Robertson
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hey where'd my review go?? I think it's on a different edition. Oh well.

Got through it for the third time! Read every damn word this time. I rarely got through a page without stopping to scribble down notes for the thing I'm writing—whereas I can get through legions of other books without being inspired in the slightest. My subconscious redirected me back to this book to get everything flowing in an authentic manner again. It's a bit like if you start a new diet and your stomach goes "I've had i
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
One=Star because I hate Bob Slocum.

There. I feel better. Take that, Middle America!
L.S. Popovich
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Family dynamics and office politics are explored with acerbic wit in the ranting, eccentric ramblings of our sleaze ball narrator in Something Happened. The internal monologue is so steeped in hate and vindictive self-righteousness that it will easily polarize half the readers. But following the main character’s galloping train of thought is like having a lucid nightmare. The endless parentheses and asides, pages dripping with spittle and spite ring true to me. You don’t have to agree with anyth ...more
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novel, heller-joseph
There will be no spoilers in this review. But I will say that if you've ever read this entire book and talk to someone else who read the entire book you both might benefit from questioning each other about it. I am not certain whether one of the key events in it took place or not. I feel sure that Heller wants us to have a definite idea of what happened in this instance.
This novel came out in 1974. It was very well received. Kurt Vonnegut wrote a brilliant essay about the book on the front page
read this book almost four years ago and it has stayed with me. you don't really want to identify with the main character because his life is a sordid, pathetic mess, but it creeps onto you anyway and by the end you feel sort of used and old and sad. or was that just me? there were moments of humor too, but what i remember most is the plethora of parentheticals, the theory on the whammy, and the despair. if you're expecting catch-22 this is not quite it. think american beauty, but less uplifting ...more
Yigal Zur
Sep 21, 2018 rated it liked it
something happened to heller. could not understand him....
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hateful, brutal, wretched...makes a much better case for the banality of evil than Hannah Arendt ever did, yet still falls short of denoting evil’s true essence.

This book is a fairytale, because I cannot truly believe bad people hate themselves quite so much as Bob Slocum.

I don’t think people who are as bad as him are really so unhappy.
That’d be nice.
David Newman
May 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Bob Slocum, the protagonist of Something Happened, is the prototypical successful modern man. Replete with all the trappings--ascending career, expansive home in the suburbs, attractive wife--he is the ideal we (the sons) were told we were supposed to aspire to. But to our dismay Bob Slocum is a man in the full throws of existential crisis. We find him in his late forties standing on the precipice, staring into the abyss. Here is a man adrift in a world devoid of rational purpose or design, conf ...more
Jul 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
I actually like this book better than Catch-22. I believe that Alan Ball used a lot of Heller's characterization in this novel to create Lester Burnham for American Beauty. The novel's protagonist is, simply put, an ass. You don't have to like him to become mesmerized (only word I can think of) by what he says and does and how he perceives everything and everybody with all filters turned off; it's like a snapshot of all of the very real, dark, horrific things that go on in all of our minds that ...more
St Fu
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
It was too long. Like life Ha ha. It was repetitive. Like an argument. Like the chorus of a song. Like sex. Like going to work. Sometimes it was amazing, but not enough for 5 stars. There's always a 5 star book ahead of you for you to fear being inferior to.

The something that happens was foreshadowed long before, but it's no longer significant. Its lack of significance is what is significant. Early on, we are asked, what happened to that perfect child? The one we start out as? The one our childr
Apr 15, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, adventure
Nothing happened. Despite having written the enthralling and intriguing Catch-22, this does not even come close to the same level. The main character describes his pathetic life in minute details but does nothing to change the relationships he despises. There is no plot, no real character development, and no climax that's meaningful. The 'something' that happened, did so in the last three pages but since you couldn't relate to the main character, Bob Slocum, you couldn't feel for him at the end. ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an uncharacteristically long read for me. I read this book in installments over many months. I think it was the unrelenting darkness of the thing that kept putting me off. But I do believe I understand how the novel has managed to achieve a measure of cult status despite its initial, underwhelming performance and critical reception when it was published in 1974. It's that particular sort of darkness Heller deploys in this book which brings you back. Maybe it's the literary equivalent o ...more
Oct 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Generally when an author makes his debut with a great book, two things happen, the subsequent books of the author are not as good as the first one or even if writes a better book somehow it is always in the shadow of the first one. The second happened to Joseph Heller, with his second novel 'Something Happened', which to me personally is as good as Catch-22 if slightly better than it. But which somehow does not seem to have got the same importance of 'Catch-22' or captured people's imagination a ...more
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"I know at last what I want to be when I grow up. When I grow up I want to be a little boy"

Firstly I have to say that the title of this novel is a bit of a misnomer because virtually nothing happens until the last two pages and my copy was 550+ pages long.

Truthfully the only character in this novel is Bob Slocum, an executive in his forties with an unnamed corporation. Although he tells us about his family and his colleagues we only hear his opinion of them. His family are filled with the qualit
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Joseph Heller was the son of poor Jewish parents from Russia. Even as a child, he loved to write; at the age of eleven, he wrote a story about the Russian invasion of Finland. He sent it to New York Daily News, which rejected it. After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1941, Heller spent the next ye

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