Jeffrey Meyers

The Failure of Success

Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home and Life Was a Catch-22

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Simon & Schuster 288pp £15.45 order from our bookshop

Just One Catch: The Passionate Life of Joseph Heller

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Biteback 560pp £25 order from our bookshop

When asked in Green Hills of Africa about what harms a writer, Hemingway fatalistically replied: ‘Politics, women, drink, money, ambition. And the lack of politics, women, drink, money and ambition.’ He could have added the children of authors – from Tolstoy and Thomas Mann to himself – who’ve trashed their fathers in memoirs (only mistresses are more vindictive). Everything in the life of Joseph Heller (1923–1999) led up to and down from Catch-22 (1961), the artistic and emotional peak of his career. Reviews of his dutifully cranked-out later novels ranged from faint praise to categorical condemnations. Though he had nothing more to say, he continued to hurt himself and commit literary suicide.

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