Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home and Life Was a Catch-22 by Erica Heller; Just One Catch: The Passionate Life of Joseph Heller by Tracy Daugherty - review by Jeffrey Meyers

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.

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

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