More to the point, it was Algren’s review of Catch-22 (as the novel was retitled when it was published 50 years ago) that gave Heller the biggest boost he ever got. It’s often quoted by scholars. Here, for example, is John Aldridge in the Michigan Quarterly Review, in 1987, pointing out that Algren:
…made what became perhaps the most famous pronouncement on a literary subject to be uttered since John O’Hara announced, on the front page of The New York Times Book Review back in 1950, that Hemingway was “the outstanding author since the death of Shakespeare.” Algren, with far greater precision, called Catch-22 “not merely the best American novel to come out of World War II; it is the best American novel to come out of anywhere in years.”
That was just part of Algren’s claim, which appeared in the Nov. 4, 1961, edition of The Nation, in a review titled ‘The Catch.” Here, in context, is what he wrote . . .
Indeed, Catch-22 is an amazing work, and perhaps not read enough or regarded highly enough today. Whenever I hear talk of the evils of “hysterical realism” (although it seems that this term is much less-used these days than a few years ago) I always wonder why no one denounces Catch-22. Surely it is hysterical realism at its most hysterical, but it is also much too good a book for anyone to trifle with.