Portrait Of An Artist, As An Old Man – Joseph Heller

I’m a sucker for metafiction, and this is full of it. Heller, in his last novel before his death, tells of an old writer who started with a critical and commercial smash, who is trying to write something else as spectacular before he dies, a finale worthy of him. We get this man pottering around and talking to his wife and agent and editor about this, and we get lots of abortive starts and fragments, all fun but all dead ends. It suggests Heller was looking to write a final masterpiece, but whether he thought this was it, or if it’s intended as an apology and explanation for not producing such a book, I have no idea, but it’s an intelligent and imaginative novel, referencing all sorts of other writers (not least Roth’s Zuckerman books, plus Updike, Barth and several others) and full of enjoyable ideas.