Saturday, 5 April 2003

Joseph Heller: Good as Gold (1979)

Edition: Black Swan, 1993 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 1151

Heller's third novel reads almost as though it were the book of a Woody Allen film. It is about the Jewish experience in the US in the late seventies, and contains much of the same kind of bitter sweet humour so common in Allen's work. Good as Gold centres around a second generation American Jew, Bruce Gold, who is entering middle age and who is desperate to be taken seriously - as a writer, as a family member (particularly by his irascible father and brother), as someone who could make a mark in the world. Most of the story is about his desperate pursuit of a job in Washington, once he hears that the President was impressed by one of his essays. The question is, how much of his principles and his life is he prepared to sacrifice?

It is pretty familiar ground, and much of Good as Gold now comes over as dated. It naturally received the standard Joseph Heller review: someone described it as "his best since Catch 22". Other novels since have taken that title, but Good as Good is still funny and occasionally disturbing as a portrait of a man becoming overwhelmed by ambition.

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