Candida Donadio; Literary Agent for Heller, Roth, Other Authors

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Candida Donadio, the noted literary agent whose clients included Joseph Heller, William Gaddis, Robert Stone, Philip Roth, Mario Puzo and Thomas Pynchon, has died.

Donadio, 71, died Jan. 20 at her home in Stonington, Conn. The cause of death was cancer, said her business partner, Neil Olson. She had not been active as an agent since 1995 because of her illness.

In a legendary career, Donadio was known as the agent who sold Roth’s novel “Goodbye Columbus” and Heller’s novel “Catch 22,” which was originally called “Catch 18.” The change of title came about to avoid confusion with the Leon Uris novel “Mila 18.” Donadio selected the number 22 based on her Oct. 22 birthday.


Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., the child of Italian immigrants, Donadio got her first break in the agency business when she went to work as a secretary for Herb Jaffe, who represented playwrights, actors and screenwriters, in the late 1950s. He liked her work and promoted her to agent. Donadio continued to work in the agency business after Jaffe sold his firm in 1961. In the 1970s, she opened her own firm.

She was the subject of some controversy in 1998, when it became known that she had sold a collection of 120 letters that Pynchon had written to her from 1963 to 1982. The letters, including one written in 1982 effectively firing Donadio, were purchased by Carter Burden, a New York arts patron and collector, for $45,000 in 1984.

Two years after Burden’s death, his family donated the letters to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Much of what was in those letters was subsequently published in the New York Times, to the dismay of the reclusive Pynchon.

Donadio is survived by a brother, Louis Donadio of Tehachapi, and a sister, Frances Siliani of Florence, Italy.