Daddy Issues: Joseph Heller’s Daughter Has Never Read ‘Catch-22’
Erica Heller, the daughter of author Joseph Heller who penned Catch-22, may have written her own loving memoir of her father — but she sure isn’t forgiving him for her troubled childhood. The writer and daughter confessed to The New York Times that she won’t be reading her father’s famous contribution to literature, perhaps because of the abysmal way he treated her as a girl.
In her 40s, in 1996, Ms. Heller was â€œdemolishedâ€ to read the manuscript of his book â€œSomething Happenedâ€, a largely autobiographical novel that she describes as â€œ569 pages of biting, caustically wrapped smoldering rage.â€ In its pages, she found his â€œloathingâ€ for her laid bare. In a chapter he had titled â€œMy Daughter Is Unhappy,â€ she found â€œyears of verbatim conversations,â€ and reeled to read this summation of the narratorâ€™s daughter: â€œShe sometimes seems so barren of hope that I find myself grieving silently alongside her, as though at an empty coffin or grave in which her future is lying dead already.â€ When she confronted her father, asking, â€œHow could you write about me that way?â€ he responded, â€œWhat makes you think youâ€™re interesting enough to write about?â€ Ouch.
Criticisms from parents are difficult enough to endure in your own home when you’re a kid, but seeing them woven into stories for the entire literary world to consume can obviously leave lasting scars. Catch-22 may be one of the great literary works of the 20th century, but even great art can’t eclipse the painful words from critical parents.