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Manliness

D.A.N. Jones

20 December 1984
Last Ferry to Manly 
by Jill Neville.
Penguin, 165 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 14 007068 0
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Down from the Hill 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 218 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 246 12517 9
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God Knows 
by Joseph Heller.
Cape, 353 pp., £8.95, November 1984, 0 224 02288 1
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Wilt on High 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 236 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 9780436458118
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... in Limbo.’ God Knows has a lightning flash on the cover, looking like Mosley’s armlet, but Joseph Heller’s novel is not deliberately anti-Jewish. It is meant to be an autobiography of King David, the sweet singer of Israel, as told by a wisecracking New Yorker who fancies himself as a Jewish wit. Cocteau once said of the French child poet, Minou ...

Comedy is murder

Thomas Powers: Joseph Heller

8 March 2012
Just One Catch: The Passionate Life of Joseph Heller 
by Tracy Daugherty.
Robson, 548 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 1 84954 172 5
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Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller was Dad and Life was a Catch-22 
by Erica Heller.
Vintage, 272 pp., £8.99, October 2011, 978 0 09 957008 0
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... The longest years of Joseph Heller’s writing life fell between his first book and his second. He set no records but the delay eventually got his name into magazine pieces about one-book authors, a cautionary roster of the silent that included Margaret Mitchell, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee and Ralph Ellison. Heller’s history reflected theirs – the dreams of youth and years of literary apprenticeship, a period of obsessed scribbling, enthusiasm from a publisher, a ripple of applause from the fraternity of reviewers, followed by the ever mysterious and arbitrary embrace of readers in their multitude ...
20 October 1994
Closing Time 
by Joseph Heller.
Simon and Schuster, 464 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 0 671 71907 6
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... Logic is doubtless unshakeable,’ Joseph K. thinks towards the end of The Trial, ‘but it cannot withstand a man who wants to go on living.’ He is wrong, of course, since he is killed within a page by the brutal logic of the novel he is in. But there is a logic that resists such logic, and one of its masters is Joseph...
26 January 1995
Kenneth Tynan: Letters 
edited by Kathleen Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 669 pp., £22, November 1994, 0 297 81076 6
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... letters here, testify to the fitful phenomenon that was Tynan’s generosity. His comments to Joseph Heller, after reading the proof copy of Good as Gold, or his pointers to Marlene Dietrich on how to write her autobiography, are rare and touching exercises in gentle criticism. ‘AVOID PRINTING WORDS IN CAPITAL LETTERS,’ he advises Dietrich. Tynan ...

Bloodbaths

John Sutherland

21 April 1988
Misery 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 340 39070 0
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The Tommyknockers 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 563 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 340 39069 7
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Touch 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 245 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 9780670816545
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Sideswipe 
by Charles Willeford.
Gollancz, 293 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 575 04197 8
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Ratking 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 282 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 571 15147 7
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... Leiber, Bloch, Matheson and Jackson. ‘I could, for example, be an “important” writer like Joseph Heller and publish a novel every seven years or so, or a “brilliant” writer like John Gardner and write obscure books for bright academics who eat macrobiotic foods and drive old Saabs with faded but still legible GENE McCARTHY FOR PRESIDENT ...

Dogs

Ronan Bennett

11 February 1993
Inshallah 
by Oriana Fallaci, translated by James Marcus.
Chatto, 599 pp., £15.99, November 1992, 0 7011 3835 1
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... Every step of the territory Fallaci traverses is familiar; it carries echoes from Hemingway. Joseph Heller and Michael Herr without possessing a fraction of then power: the descriptions of the war-torn city, the psychotic gunmen, the well-intentioned if ineffectual soldiers doing their best to ‘hold the ring’, the brutalised population, the dead ...
20 September 2001
The Trial of Henry Kissinger 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Verso, 159 pp., £15, May 2001, 1 85984 631 9
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... scale equalled only by Eichmann, Heydrich and the like. As Hitchens admits, he isn’t the first: Joseph Heller in Good as Gold was as blunt about it all as it was possible to be. Anyone who has studied the 1968-76 period has long been aware that Kissinger could be a very rough customer indeed, and that his role in government gave him unparalleled ...
5 June 1980
In Evil Hour 
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa.
Cape, 183 pp., £5.50, January 1980, 0 224 01775 6
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... Rain in Macondo’ and One Hundred Years of Solitude). Garcia Marquez’s case is not like that of Joseph Heller, for example, in which the dominance of one work, and the tendency of the rest to be seen as pedestals, buttresses and exit ramps, is adventitious. And the connections inside his fiction need to be grasped – more than the recurrences in ...

Irishtown

D.A.N. Jones

1 November 1984
Ironweed 
by William Kennedy.
Viking, 227 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 670 40176 5
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In Custody 
by Anita Desai.
Heinemann, 204 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 9780434186358
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Flaubert’s Parrot 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 190 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 241 11374 1
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... filthy bums.’ Poor Rudy replies: ‘You ain’t filthy. You got a new suit.’ Doris Grumbach, Joseph Heller and Alison Lurie have all praised this Albany novel, the two ladies admiring its ‘low comedy’ and its ‘rollicking, black wit’. Fair enough, I suppose: but I did not laugh much myself. The story is too rough and too credible to be ...
7 October 1982
... Writings, Flann O’Brien’s The Poor Mouth. Next year’s list will have Good as Gold by Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut’s Jail-bird, Joyce Carol Oates’s Unholy Loves, Michael Korda’s Charmed Lives, Arthur Hailey’s The Moneychangers, Bernard Malamud’s New Life, Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America, Philip Roth’s The Ghost ...

Not Quite Nasty

Colin Burrow: Anthony Burgess

9 February 2006
The Real Life of Anthony Burgess 
by Andrew Biswell.
Picador, 434 pp., £20, November 2005, 0 330 48170 3
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... policy. Biswell’s biography includes an affectionate description of Burgess’s time there by Joseph Heller, who remembers that Burgess would listen to and take seriously all his pupils: ‘His desire to teach, to bring about a positive change in what were sometimes rather deranged minds, exceeded by far his need for self-preservation.’ The version ...

Subject, Spectator, Phantom

J. Hoberman: The Strangest Personality Ever to Lead the Free World

17 February 2005
Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief 
by Mark Feeney.
Chicago, 422 pp., £19.50, November 2004, 0 226 23968 3
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... an impressive roster of American writers, including Robert Coover, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon, Ishmael Reed, Philip Roth and Garry Wills – whose analyses of Nixon, Reagan and Wayne blazed the trail for Nixon at the Movies – took him on as a character. Pundits have searched for literary antecedents (Uriah ...

Bang, Crash, Crack

Elizabeth Lowry: Primo Levi

7 June 2007
A Tranquil Star: Unpublished Stories 
by Primo Levi, translated by Ann Goldstein and Alessandra Bastagli.
Penguin, 164 pp., £20, April 2007, 978 0 7139 9955 6
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... bed-making and sententious slogans in the latrines – are as bleakly funny as anything in Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut. The book is driven by the attempt to understand something beyond ordinary comprehension, by Levi’s constant sense, as he later explained to his German translator, of ‘a painful void, a puncture, a permanent stimulus that ...

Living It

Andrew O’Hagan: The World of Andy McNab

24 January 2008
Crossfire 
by Andy McNab.
Bantam, 414 pp., £17.99, October 2007, 978 1 84413 535 6
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Strike Back 
by Chris Ryan.
Century, 314 pp., £17.99, October 2007, 978 1 84413 535 6
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... Second World War, every male contender – William Styron, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, James Jones, Joseph Heller – had done some service and wanted to write literary masterpieces filled with the perfumes of combat.* It is only in more recent times that the task of writing novels about battle has fallen chiefly to bad writers. It might describe changes ...

Bunny Hell

Christopher Tayler: David Gates

26 August 2015
A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me 
by David Gates.
Serpent’s Tail, 314 pp., £12.99, August 2015, 978 1 78125 491 2
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Jernigan 
by David Gates.
Serpent’s Tail, 339 pp., £8.99, August 2015, 978 1 78125 490 5
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... connoisseurs of disappointment and self-sabotage, published his first novel, Jernigan, in 1991. Joseph Heller called it a ‘sizzler’ and Michiko Kakutani announced in the New York Times that Gates had ‘established himself as a novelist of the very first order’. The Times profiled him too: ‘“Beckett is my main man,” Mr Gates says in his ...

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