Books: Portrait Of An Artist, As An Old Man

By Joseph Heller

The final novel from the celebrated author who died last December tracks, sometimes amusingly and always relentlessly, the decline of literary inventiveness. Eugene Pota, an author in his 70s, knew success and acclaim in his youth, and wants to make their acquaintance one more time. But nothing he begins writing, including the further adventures of Tom Sawyer and the story of God's wife, strikes him as worth pursuing. The one thing he refuses to consider doing is a novel about a novelist, a category he deems "already passe." The joke is on Pota; he doesn't realize that he is the hero...

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