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.
In her memoir his daughter, Erica, indulges in whining, self-pity and bitter recrimination. Hostile to Heller for his harsh treatment of her mother and herself, she portrays him as ‘petulant and determinedly boorish’, selfish, caustic and cruel. She was sympathetic about his illness; he was callous and egoistic