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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'He was not a revolutionary at all of course. He was only marginally a socialist. His tradition was rooted in the Liberal aristocracy, and his politics were entirely bounded by Parliament.'
From the archive, Paul Foot on Tony Benn's diaries.
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