E Plaza a career and a pen She recaptures the details of a New York childhood with a family of characters right out of Central Casting and unbelievably her sense of humor has remained intact I can only marvel at her generosity of spirit in regards to her difficult but brilliant father and loved this insider s view served with love and panache The daughters of famous men specially those designated geniuses often seem to have a very difficult time in life It was true of a recently read memoir by Orson Welles daughter and seems also to be the case with Erica Heller daughter of Joseph the famous author of Catch 22Perhaps it s the go reuired by any artist or the demands of fame but the families of such men seem to get short shrift in the attention they reuire growing up To be fair Erica Heller s memoir isn t a bitter one Despite uite a few legitimate grievances including a prolonged and acrimonious divorce with her mother during which he insisted her mother s accurate detailing of his numerous infidelities were hallucinations and delusions on her partErica Heller has a humourous affection for her father s many foibles which included a razor sharp and corrosively caustic sarcasm a uirk of his also detailed in Bruce Jay Friedman s memoir Lucky Bruce It was a part of his personality which made Friedman uneasy but seems to have been accepted by his daughter as part and parcel of who Heller wasThere are dozens of interesting stories here for literary fans or ven just those with an interest in the variety of the human animal It can be harrowing at times as the younger Heller is frank about such things as learning disabilities cancer divorce and psychological trauma but it s honest It s also something of a history of the Apthorp apartments in New York city where both Heller and his daughter lived and a window into both other famous residents and its origins and changes throughout the yearsThe reader ven gets a recipe for pot roast that the author withheld from her father for years at her mother s reuest All in all a satisfying and insightful read BH This book should be reuired reading for anyone interested in Joseph Heller memoir New York City recent history and much lseAs the book s title and subtitle suggest this is a hybrid A biopsy of the building its history and residents the real focus of Yossarian is Joseph Heller and his long suffering wife Shirley Erica s mother Erica plays a supporting role in the Hellers Bermuda Triangle her younger brother Ted makes cameo apparences and remains an Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation enigma The bittersweet tale of this over achieving angst ridden family s rise in postwar Manhattan its wrangling and tragicomic fall is at turns laugh aloud funny brilliantly observed somber obsessive and depressing If it were a movie it could be co directed by Mel Brooks and Alfred Hitchcock What keeps you turning the pages deep into the night is Erica s skill at spinning the yarn In her hands the Heller family s self lacerating irony and wit isau de vie sending down a variety of horse pills Comic relief is welcome After her parents acrimonious divorce Erica visits her nonogenarian maternal grandmother I suddenly realized that Gender Justice every photograph containing my father herx son in law had been cut apart she writes And that in ach one instead of a head or a face in its place was now stuck a cotton ball What s in a name Do not be daunted by the "Title Yossarian Might Well Win A National Book Award For "Yossarian might well win a National Book Award for most cryptic insiderish tag of 2011 Think Napoleon or Lord Byron who famously slept verywhere Then recall that Yossarian was Joe Heller s doppelganger the heroic antihero of Catch 22 Before it became one of the most freuently misused xpressions in modern English one of the most freuently misused xpressions in modern English 22 was a bombshell novel about the random craziness of World War Two among other things It was published in 1961 If you missed the novel you might remember the movie 1970 If you missed both you are fortunate read and view them now They may well change your life and also From Notes to Narrative entice you to read Erica Heller s memoir Both it and Catch 22 are bleakly hilarious Yossarian is a testament to the destructiveness of narcissism Catch 22 was deeply riotious anti war and joyously absurdist The right book at the right time in the right place as the 1960s progressed Catch 22 became the literary talisman of anti Vietnam youth It sold millions and is still in print Catch 22 certainly shaped the outlook of this reader Like many of my generation I devoured it when I was attending high school Might Joseph Heller be indirectly responsible for this blog It would be impossible to calculate how many lives were shaped in some cases warped by Joseph Heller He was much than a consummate stylist His world view seemed to my adolescent mind to merge with a peculiarly American genius Dostoevsky Conrad and Camus His descriptions of World War Two also rang true my father had fought in Italy in the same places as Yossarian Heller inerily similar circumstances Curiously Erica Heller reveals in this memoir that she has never read Catch 22 Whether she inherited her knack for pithy prose from her father is impossible to know without genetic testing and Guitar Makers: The Endurance of Artisanal Values in North America exhumation They were both advertising copywriters and shared a mordant irreverent at times sardonic wit An unforgettable instance of this revolves around a family trip to Italy in the 1960s Erica s brother opened his mouth to ask a uestion that I still love to recall So who s the guy on the t in all the churches After clarifying his uest. Mother Dottie that could be by turns caring infuriating andxasperating though anything but dull From the forbidden pleasures of ordering shrimp cocktail when it was beyond the family’s budget to spending a summer as her father’s fame grew at the Beverly Hills Hotel Erica details the Hellers’ charmed and charmingly turbulent trajectory She offers a rare glimpse of meetings with the Gourmet Club where her father would dine weekly with Mel Brooks Zero Mostel and Mario Puzo among others and from which all wives and children were strictly verboten She introduces us to many xtraordinary residents of the Apthorp some famous George Balanchine Sidney Poitier and Lena Horne to name a few and some not famous but all uite memorable Yet she also manages to limn the complex bonds of loyalty and gu. What is it like to grow up the daughter of one of the great American novelists I suspect that the answer would be a variation of Tolstoy s opening sentence of his pic story of Anna Karenina Hard Bread (Phoenix Poets (Paper)) each famous author s family is weird in its own way Erica Heller does a wonderful job in thisminently readable and ntertaining memoir of telling us what it was like growing up as the daughter of Joseph Heller the author of at least one of the great American novels Catch 22 So what was Dad like Funny blunt self centered full of life irascible childlike full of flaws hearty of appetites contradictory human oh wait in other words he was like a lot of other guys the one big difference between him and just about all those other guys out there being that Joe was also a great writer I love Catch 22 I ve read it twice and from what we learn abou My review from 2014Yossarian is or course the paranoid protagonist of Catch 22 the book that gave Joseph Heller ternal fame As a marketing gimmick tagging Yossarian to the book s title is a masterstroke by Erica Heller Unfortunately this book reads like her autobiography and the story of Joseph Heller s wife and mother in law Anyone looking for an insight into the mind of an author who created memorable characters like Milo Minderbinder Major Major Major Major Orr Lieutenant Scheisskopf Major de Coverley General Dreedle with his nurse Chief White Halfoat Doc Daneeka tc will be sorely disappointedSadly according to his daughter the author comes across as a nasty gotistical like Yossarian gourmandizing philandering and venal character The photos in the story show a genial fellow rather than an ogre I found the character of Erica to be flawed and not Joe Heller sOne would have liked to know how Catch 22 came to be written and how the story Foraging for Survival evolved All one gathers from the book is that Heller too was a bombardier in the US Air Force and served in Italy during WW II Another glimpse offered is a discussion about the numerals that would follow Catch It could not have been the original 18 as Leon Uris Mila 18 had just been released Other numbers that were bandies about were 27 and 539 Finally theditor form Simon and Schuster came up with the nondescript 22 which suffixed to Catch would become a byword of our times The Fragments economic benefits of the book are portrayed in detail by Erica Heller along with the favourable impact on their livesA redeeming feature is reminisces of interactions of authors like Martin Amis Salman Rushdie Ian McEwan Christopher Hitchens who as a tribute adopted the title Hitch 22 A Memoir for his memoirs with Joseph HellerThere is an unexpected and revealing twist at thend Yossarian Slept Here makes interesting companion reading to Tracy Daugherty s recent Heller biography Just One Catch A Biography of Joseph Heller The first third of this memoir covering Foundations of Tropical Forest Biology: Classic Papers with Commentaries events before Erica was born and her too young to remember years is in anntertaining chatty style Once she reached vents she participated in she can t maintain that lig Imagine as a visual image balancing with one toe the big one of course on the head of a pin one arm reaching Forward And The Opposite Leg and the opposite leg backward in a perfect arabesue That s the kind of balancing act Erica Heller has pulled off with Yossarian Slept Here her insightful totally honest memoir about her life as the daughter of renowned writer Joseph Heller and his wife Shirley She makes sure you know that her father does love her in spite of his insensitivity freuently bordering on cruelty and almost complete lack of parenting skills As Blake Bailey points out in her review of Yossarian Slept Here New York Times Book Review Sunday August 28 2011 The miracle of this memoir is that it never seems less than Fair Erica Heller S Worst Erica Heller s worst are mentioned in sorrow or levity than anger and she s careful to give her own shortcomings their due She also writes with affection and mpathy about the many other colorful members of her uniue family Erica Heller has a powerful story to tell and the ability to make the reader want to hear it She s a wonderful writer smart and funny her analogies are hilarious It would be great to hear from her in the form of a novel next time She could probably write a great screenplay as well This is my cousin Erica Heller s s autobiography It is funny my cousin has always has a wicked sense of humor It is sad and poignant hilarious and lovely in turns A beautifully written book PS The portrait she paints of our wild Grandmother is uite accuratebelieve it or not The memoir genre could have no better spokeswoman than Erica Heller Yossarian Slept Here is a dazzling book witty moving perceptive and incredibly generous Critics have remarked that Erica Heller has inherited her father Joseph Heller s gift for storytelling but frankly I think it s all her own She s a kinder writer though honest and without a shred of sentimentality The story of what happens when success come to a family and it s outrageous father has been handled in these pages with the skill of an original literary winner I sped through it compulsively and wished it would never nd I give it five stars Phyllis Raphael Witty and wonderfully written this walk through the gates of the Apthorp and into the life of Joseph Heller and his family is a jewel of a book I xpected a portrait of the famous man but was ven nthralled with her tale of growing up in a place and time that has now vanished as though Eloise were given a life outside th. THROUGHOUT ERICA HELLER’S LIFE when people learned that Joseph Heller was her father they often remarked “How terrific” But was there a catch Like his most famous work her father was a study in contradictions One Ticket To Texas eccentric brilliant and voracious but also mercurial competitive and stubborn with a love of mischief that sometimes cut too close to the bone Being raised by such a larger than life personality could be claustrophobicven at the sprawling Upper West Side apartments of the Apthorp which the Hellers called home in one way or another for forty five years Yossarian Slept Here is Erica Heller’s wickedly funny but also poignant and incisive memoir about growing up in a family her iconic father; her wry beautiful mother Shirley; her younger brother Ted; her relentlessly inventive grand. Ion my parents Helpmate explained to him about Jesus Christ Genetic science may one day tell us whether talent may be transmitted down the generations More likely Erica Heller s skill and her personality were branded and bruised by the hammering and fire of her father s forge His was a relentless demand for perfection Students of Joseph Heller s life will be well served the memoir skillfully reveals countless details about him and his rituals shedding light on the mechanics of how he wrote He dreamed and scratched and scrawled his slow and carefully chosen spidery words onto index cards and yellow legal pads she notes He then typed them onto his rickety machine hunting and pecking his way to opulent times Complex and troubling Joseph Heller was clearly not your run of the paternal mill presence in the lives of his wife and children Charm and literary skills aside what comes through when reading this selfffacing and at times self deprecating story is that Erica was spared the genes carrying her father s less admirable traits A fantasist and philanderer Joseph Heller appears in these pages as lusty brash funny and sufficiently self absorbed to alienate Art, Culture, and Cuisine: Ancient and Medieval Gastronomy even his most devoted friends and family members including Erica She loved and revered him but Suddenly it was open season she writes about the beginning of hostilities I had sailed from the gentle protective cloak of my father s kindness over to the other side the angry side filled with sharpdged antagonism To her credit she forgave him than once for motional injury and out of her xperience has crafted a heartfelt moving memoir Highly recommendedDavid D Downie wwwdavidddowniecom Verbatim PurgatoryWhen I started to read Erica Heller s affectionate memoir of life with her father and mother I wondered what insights it would have into the fictional family of Bob Slocum in her father s novel Something Happened Was the Slocum family Joe Heller s own Was the unnamed daughter based on Erica When she asks him Joe responds to his daughter What makes you think you re interesting Black British Cultural Studies: A Reader enough to write about On the other hand Erica has much of value to say of her father s second novel The book was 569 pages of hilarious but mordant caustically wrapped smoldering rage It was also superb depressing and many claim including the author himself that it was Dad s best work There had been arguments for years between my parents over it over the fact that it so closely detailed someone who so resembled him and told in the first person and in such harrowing detail such an angry tale of one man snnui disgust and scorching disappointment in and dissatisfaction with Gypsy World: The Silence of the Living and the Voices of the Dead each member of his family singularly and together none of whom was named in the book His depiction of marriage as a stifling irredeemable purgatory that served as a home base for the protagonist s many liaisons was indisputable But it was also my mother s concern for her children I believe that really precipitated the beginning of thend the rupture rather than the rapture There were years of verbatim conversations contained in it and the dynamic between father and daughter in all of its complicated weary miscommunication and cutthroat struggle for the power that a father generally automatically holds was strikingly familiar The parental need the perverse competition to outfox the child was that I wondered universal Men Did ThatHeller s novel was packed with details of Bob Slocum s philandering though his unnamed wife seemed to be oblivious to itErica reveals a time when Joe s xtramarital affairs became obvious to the family my father s decades of philandering had finally been brought to lightHe began telling "my mother then according to her about all of his affairs and indiscretions "mother then according to her about all of his affairs and indiscretions the years with friends of hers of theirs students writers PR women ditors butchers bakers candlestick makers At that point my father was a man of shall we say robust and uncontrolled appetites His intake was normous Ironically Erica was speaking of his appetite for food in the second paragraphin an for food in the second paragraphIn an with the Observer s Lynn Barber Joe Heller xplains It was part of the male culture It was not a sexual drive it was justI was in New York City working in an atmosphere where men did that we d have parties and a couple would go into a room togetherHe says his wife Shirley never accurately detected his affairs but she knew he was unfaithful This certainly accords with the rationale of the fictitious Bob Slocum Slocum screwed around because Silvers Edge everybody at work was doing it It wasxpected of him In order to climb the corporate ladder he had to get his leg overTesting Whether the Key Still WorksErica sees it as a side ffect of her father s charm To be fair my father was an ual opportunity flirt old women young women the homely and the beautiful it didn t matter He simply Going Berserk enjoyed the teasing the bantering the constant affirmation of hisffect on people like putting a key into a car to check whether the motor starts Needless to say it took its toll on Shirley his wife and Erica s motherJoe seemed to think that he could have both marriage and philandering Our love was supposed to last a lifetime They Were MeshuggahSpeed Vogel Joe s best friend laborates Your father has the luxury of having someone in the world who is on his side than anybody lse Do you know what that s worth You may not realise how that alters the universe for someone and how much that means but it means Come Hell or High Water: Feminism and the Legacy of Armed Conflict in Central America everything Your mother doesn t get it does she Shirley do. Ilt hurt and healing that definevery family Erica was among those present at her father’s bedside as he struggled to recover from Guillain Barré syndrome and then cared for her mother when Shirley was diagnosed with terminal cancer after the thirty Autobiography and Other Writings eight year marriage and intensely passionate partnership with Joe hadnded Witty and perceptive and displaying the descriptive gifts of a born storyteller this authentic and colorful portrait of life in the Heller household unfolds alongside the saga of the family’s moves into four distinctive apartments within the Apthorp ach representing a different phase of their lives together and apart It is a story about achieving a dream; about fame and its aftermath; about lasting love suandered opportunities and how to have the best meal in Chinato.
Yossarian Slept Here (PDF)