“Growing up female in America. What a liability! You grew up with your ears full of cosmetic ads, love songs, advice columns, whoreoscopes, Hollywood gossip, and moral dilemmas on the level of TV soap operas.”
– Erica Jong, Fear of Flying
First, let me say, this is a fascinating book to have read during Women’s History Month. Second, let me say, this book was bad. So bad. I hated it.
Okay, I get it. Jong wrote about women in a “completely new way” (Nora Sayre) that women can totally “identify” with Isadora who is “really more of a person than a woman” (New York Times – I’m not even going to go there, NYT. WTF.) It’s “a raunchy, anarchic account of a woman’s sexual escapades conducted with a… lusty disregard for convention, taste or conscience” (Time – emphasis mine) and it’s a “brave and honest book” (Hannah Green) and one that was “a welcome addition to a male-dominated genre” (Cleveland Plain Dealer). Praises abound, to be sure. And to be honest, I feel like I’m going to be called a prude because I didn’t like it. It had nothing to do with the sex scenes (in fact, after all the talk, I was surprised at how few there were) or the bad language, I could care less about those things. They have their places in books and it was clear that they had their place here. What got to me about this book was the utter ridiculousness of it all, of the main character Isadora Wing and her “problems.”
The book begins at a psychoanalysis conference that Isadora is attending with her second husband Bennet when she meets Adrian, a handsome English psychoanalyst who grabs her bottom and she’s never the same again. She eventually goes on a cross-Europe journey with Adrian, leaving her husband behind, trying to find herself. There were moments when I actually almost liked Isadora. She was self-conscious enough to be loveable, for about two seconds. Then all the things that she was so sure were true about life, sex, men, women, children, families, Arabs really start to get to the reader. This book bothered me in the same way Catcher in the Rye and On the Road bother me – self-sure (wo)man, goes on self-searching journey, abandoning everything, says a few cuss words, has a few Remarkable Insights that must be shared along the way, and eventually loses what could have made the story worth reading anyway (all three even dip into the racism).
The book is not necessarily poorly written – if nothing else, though I was completely infuriated, I could appreciate Jong’s style. Even her use of curse words was impressively seamless. It was just the attitude of the main character and how she said things and how this is supposed to be how women think. I guess it’s how some women think. But what stereotypes did Jong really break? In fact, I think she created some and perpetuated some.
The first couple chapters I thought I was really going to enjoy this book, that it was going to be an interesting perspective, an interesting story. Then I got to this quote, and it sealed the deal. This quote infuriated me. It made me want to throw the book across the room in anger.
Besides, the older you got, the clearer it became that men were basically terrified of women. Some secretly, some openly. What could be more poignant than a liberated woman eye to eye with a limp prick? All history’s greatest issues paled by comparison with these two quintessential objects: the eternal woman and the eternal limp prick.
Oh, really? REALLY? All history’s greatest issues? All of them?
Get a grip, Isadora/Erica.
45% – Ugh, put it back on the shelf, now. Turn back while you can.