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

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Synopsis

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: 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 claustrophobic, even 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 grandmother Dottie—that could be by turns caring, infuriating, and exasperating, 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 extraordinary residents of the Apthorp, some famous—George Balanchine, Sidney Poitier, and Lena Horne, to name a few—and some not famous, but all quite memorable. Yet she also manages to limn the complex bonds of loyalty and guilt, hurt and healing, that define every 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-eight-year marriage and intensely passionate partnership with Joe had ended.

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, each 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, squandered opportunities, and how to have the best meal in Chinatown.
 

About Erica Heller

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Erica Heller is the daughter of Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22. An advertising copywriter, novelist, and creative consultant, her work has appeared in the New York Observer and on the Huffington Post. She lives in New York City at the ever-evolving Apthorp apartment building. Karen White is a classically trained actress who has been recording and directing audiobooks for more than ten years. An Audie Award finalist and Best Audiobook of the Year 2009 winner for The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon Reed, she has earned many AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for Too Good to Be True by Erin Arvedlund and Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. Of Karen's narration of Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, Publishers Weekly says, "Karen White delivers a stunning reading, her character interpretations are confident and well-rounded, and she forges a strong bond with the audience."
 
Published August 23, 2011 by Simon & Schuster. 290 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Yossarian Slept Here

Kirkus Reviews

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Heller chronicles the family’s various residences and histrionics inside the Apthorp as it became a much-revered, eccentric celebrity roost, and she is generously candid and evenhanded about the family’s happier days, her father’s later novels and the darkness of her parents’ marital discord and ...

Jul 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

The Guardian

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Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller was Dad and Life Was a Catch-22 by Erica Heller Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop Tell us what you...

Nov 18 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

Publishers Weekly

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With wit punctuating lambent nostalgia, she brings her father to life in an animated, absorbing fashion, documenting his quirky habits, celebrity, and "invisible, unfathomable inner cycle," but also her parents' divorce and Heller's suffering with Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Jul 04 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

The Wall Street Journal

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Joseph Heller's second novel, "Something Happened" (1974), offers a glimpse into the novelist's chilly center.

Aug 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

New York Journal of Books

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[she] has clearly inherited her way with words from her father, and her wry, sometimes mordant viewpoint as well.” In the early pages of Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home and Life Was a Catch-22, author Erica Heller presents her readers with a lovely image of ...

Aug 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

Book Reporter

In the midst of his bitter divorce and his simultaneous battle with Guillain-Barré syndrome, Erica tells of his implausible denial of an affair with a North Carolina daughter she nicknames “Dr. Bugs.” Shirley, his wife of nearly four decades, was a beautiful, talented woman whose spirit ultimatel...

Aug 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

The Washington Times

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She recounts the story of her parents’ first meeting at a dance in the Catskills, when Grandma Dottie Held approached the cocky young Heller and said, “Have I got a girl for you!” (Unimpressed, he replied, “Everyone I know has a girl for me.”) When the passionate 38-year marriage between Joseph a...

Nov 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

The Independent

The central 'gag' of this novel, for example, is Yossarian's comic intention of staging an exorbitant wedding ceremony for New York's wealthiest elite at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which is infested with bag-people, women being customarily raped in corridors, and people Yossarian refers to ...

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The Bookbag

The real triumph of this book is that Erica Heller achieves a pacing of the revelations which draw us into her perspective - even though she is the adult voice recounting the events throughout, we realise as the tale of the Heller's unfolds that we have been as innocent as the young child in the ...

Dec 07 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Joseph Heller's daughter, Erica Heller, offers memories both sweet and tart of her upbringing by her famous father, her parents' tumultuous marriage, and a host of similar domestic vistas.

Aug 31 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

London Review of Books

In October 1962, when the paperback edition of his big book was beginning to sell in truckloads, Heller told an interviewer for Newsweek that his second novel was ‘about a married man who is working for a large company and who wants to work himself up to the point where he makes a speech at the c...

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Bookmarks Magazine

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, each representing a different phase of th...

Aug 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

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Jul 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

Time Out New York

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Joseph Heller's seminal Catch-22, and Heller's daughter, Erica, honors the milestone in her own way with her deeply felt memoir, Yossarian Slept Here.

Nov 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

The Jewish Chronicle

But nothing justifies Heller penning a novel - Something Happened - that includes a cutting, scarcely disguised account of Erica's youth.

Oct 07 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

The Paris Review

Knopf, and succeeded William Shawn as editor of The New Yorker, one might think that Catch-22 had just tumbled from the skies one day fully formed, and that he had merely been there to catch it.

Aug 04 2011 | Read Full Review of Yossarian Slept Here: When Jo...

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