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

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  • Posted August 19, 2011

    Yossarian's Daughter

    We all like to read about the lives of great creative artists. Our brains are wired to respond to stories about other people's lives and we always feel that we just might get a glimpse of the mysterious creative spark that made them great. There is always the hope that we might uncover the secret and make use of it to achieve our own greatness. We are always ultimately disappointed. The creative process is too well hidden and mysterious. However, one thing is clear; creativity does not arise from joy and contentment. It comes from a darker place. Erica Heller has given us a jewel of a memoir about her life as the daughter of perhaps the greatest novelist of the last half of the 20th century. Her prose is crystal clear and she stays tightly focused on her subject. She has a master's touch when writing about her wacky family members and their foibles, and she has the eloquence to wring every last drop of humor and comedy out of their doings with just a few deft phrases. This is not an exposé or 'tell all' book. Ms Heller takes a very realistic if not objective view of past events. She is truthful, direct and does not try to paint herself in a favorable light. She owns up to her misjudgments and does not try to gloss over unpleasant facts. Her father was always difficult to gauge. He could be in turns very generous and considerate, or if the winds of his inner emotions were blowing in the wrong direction, he could be bitingly caustic and seemingly unfeeling. His barbs struck to the quick and were very, very long as you were not the target. Joseph Heller and his wife Shirley had a great love affair during their 30+ years of marriage. During that time they lived at the venerable Apthorp Apartments on Broadway. Erica paints a loving portrait of the Apthorp, where she lives even today, and makes it almost a living character in the history of her family. She tells of her parents first meeting and struggles until he managed to publish what became known in the family as, "The Book." The Book brought them fame and fortune. Erica recounts dozens of anecdotes about many of the great creative minds of the century who dropped in and out of her life. This book is a 'must' for anyone with an interest in Joseph Heller. It is also a 'must' for anyone who has an interest in the human heart. It teaches us about the resilience of the heart and the unconditional love of a daughter for her father. .

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    YOSSARIAN SLEPT HERE ---- a Memoir Worth Reading, September 20, 2011 YOSSARIAN SLEPT HERE ---- a Memoir Worth Reading, September 20, 2011

    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 extended backward in a perfect arabesque. 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, frequently 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 grievances are mentioned more in sorrow (or levity) than anger, and she's careful to give her own shortcomings their due."
    She also writes with affection and empathy about the many other colorful members of her unique 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 more from her, in the form of a novel next time. She could probably write a great screenplay as well.

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    Posted November 27, 2011

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    Posted October 24, 2011

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    Posted January 6, 2012

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