Still Mad: American Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination Book Review

A good book does more than entertain. It opens doors, minds, and hearts.

Still Mad: American Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination, by Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert is the follow-up to their acclaimed 1979 book, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Published last year, it starts in the 1950s and ends in 2020. It explores how women writers such as Erica Jong, Lorraine Hansberry, Betty Friedan, Sylvia Plath, and Margaret Atwood have used both fiction and nonfiction to explore what it is to be female in the modern world. Each writer, in her way, describes the contradictions, sexism, and obstacles that are placed in front of her that are simply due to being born a woman. They also use feminism as a way to call out the bullshit that men have used to prevent us from reaching our full potential.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than to write a review of this book. I read their first book years ago and was blown away. My reaction to its sequel was the same. I loved it. It was powerful, it lit a fire under my proverbial behind, and it reminded me how far we still need to go. They take the energy from The Madwoman in the Attic and use it to propel the story forward. In doing so, Gubar and Gilbert inspire younger generations to take the torch from their hands and continue to fight for our rights.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Four Political Podcasts You Should Be Listening To (If You Aren’t Already)

Politics podcasts are a dime a dozen these days. For one to stand out, there has to be something about it that keeps them coming back every week.

The New Abnormal: Hosted by Molly Jong-Fast (daughter of author Erica Jong) and Andy Levy, the light is held up to the darkness that is threatening our country. Told with humor, guts, and a few four-letter words thrown in along the way, I feel better knowing that I am not alone in my fears for the future.

New episodes air every Tuesday and Friday.

The Meidas Touch: Started during the pandemic by the three Meiselas brothers (Ben, Brent, and Jordan), their mission is clear: save our American democracy, get rid you know who, and force the Republicans to take responsibility for what they have done.

New episodes air every Tuesday and Friday.

The Mary Trump Show: Hosted by author Mary Trump (the niece of he who shall not be named), she is not afraid to speak the truth. Seeing the world as only she can, it’s a refreshing, no-bullshit take on what is happening around us.

New episodes air every Wednesday.

Fever Dreams: Hosted by journalists Asawin Suebsaeng and Will Sommer, the purpose of this podcast is to call out certain persons and political parties who are using our long-held beliefs and norms to fit their perspective.

New episodes air every Wednesday.

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Fear Of Dying Book Review

Getting older is not easy. We watch our parents lose their health and their independence. We watch our children become adults and have children of their own. We watch our own bodies change shape and become saggy. And if you are a woman of a certain age, you are put aside for a twenty year old.

Erica Jong’s latest novel, Fear Of Dying, is about this part our lives. Vanessa Wonderman is an actress whose best professional years are behind her. Her parents teeter on the brink of death. Her daughter is halfway through her first pregnancy. Her husband, Asher, who is some years her senior is experiencing health problems of his own.

Needing to feel like a sexual being again, Vanessa joins, a website that matches married people with other married people for no strings attached get togethers. Could this website be inspired by her best friend, Isadora Wing, known for writing novels that some people might call salacious?  Can Vanessa find a way to disperse this restless energy via meaningless sex with strangers or will she find another way to release it?

For fans of her previous work, this novel is a signature Erica Jong book. The frank sexuality, the questions about feminism, the issues with family, etc. As with any writer, Jong includes pieces of her own life in the novel. And for fans of her most famous novel, Fear Of Flying, including Isadora Wing in the cast of characters bring the story full circle.

I absolutely recommend this book.

What Do Women Want Book Review

Can women have it all? What do women want? Women have been asking themselves this question for generations.

Thanks to our fore mothers, my generation of women can have it all. We have unprecedented access to higher education and the career of our choice. Unlike our grandmothers and great grandmothers, marriage is a choice and not an economic necessity. If and when we have children, thanks to science and Roe V. Wade, we can choose when we wish to have children and how many we want to have.

Do we truly want it all? What happens if we should have it all? What do we truly want out of life?

Erica Jong’s 2007 book, What Do Women Want?, asks that question through a series of essays.  The topics of the essays range from Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the timelessness of Jane Eyre and the late Princess Diana.  What I like about this book is that Ms. Jong asks candid questions that need to be answered. In her usual up front, laying all cards on the table style, the questions are presented in a way that is both readable and asks the reader to formulate their own answer to the questions.

I recommend this book.

Fear Of Flying Review

As a writer and a reader, there is before and after moment for me. There is the moment I started reading Erica Jong’s classic and sometimes controversial (depending on your point of view) 1973 novel, Fear Of Flying. Then there is the moment after and you realize that you will never read a novel or see the world the same way again.  Ms. Jong’s late 20’s coming of age novel is the story of discovering yourself as an adult and making decisions based on what is real versus what is fantasy.

Ms. Jong’s literary doppelganger, Isadora Wing, is traveling to Vienna with her second husband for a psychiatry conference.  Her sexual fantasy, known as the zipless f*ck appears in the form of Adrian Goodlove, an Englishman who is very willing to take part in Isadora’s sexual’s fantasies. But the sexual fantasy will soon fade as Adrian forces Isadora to face her past, her choices and choose her future.

If I were to make a list of all of the books I have read and put them in order of how influential they were in my life, Fear Of Flying would be in the top five. I read it when I was twenty seven and my life was forever changed. I understood Isadora from the first page. She is a woman still discovering who she is and what she wants out of life. Those are questions that we normally ask ourselves as teenagers, but they surprisingly still come up ten years later. Ms. Jong is open as a writer, both emotionally and sexually. She is a balls to the wall writer who uses her writing both as a form of expression and a form of therapy.

What I love about this book is that it opened the door to other female authors.  Women, both as writers and readers, are not as confined to certain genres or characters as they once were. We are freer than we were to write and read as we feel, even if the story goes against what is considered popular or appropriate for a female.

I recommend this book.

Fear Of Flying, 41 years Later

Warning: This post contain spoilers. If you have not read Fear Of Flying or you are planning to read in the future,  and do not want to be spoiled, do not read this post. I will understand.

Fear Of Flying, the classic (and sometimes controversial, depending on your point of view) novel by Erica Jong is 41 this year.

The central character is Isadora Wing, a 27 year old woman traveling with her second husband to a work conference. She dreams of the zipless f*ck, the ultimate sexual fantasy. That dream comes in the form of Adrian Goodlove, a man who will fulfill the fantasy and forces her to ask the tough questions she has been avoiding.

Fear Of Flying was published at the height of the second wave of the Feminist movement, when the old rules and the barriers that kept women confined were being torn down.  Jong and Isadora, her literary doppelganger are part of the generation who were born during World War II and came of age in the rigid 1950’s and early 1960’s.  We can look back now and see that the rules of that era were very straightforward and simple, but to the girls growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, it was confusing time made even more confusing by the double standard. Fear Of Flying was a shock to the reading public, just as Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and The Single Girl and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was during the early 1960’s.

Jong, borrowing from Charlotte Bronte, uses her main character to guide us through the story. We see the world through Isadora’s eyes.  Her life is complicated. She is on her second marriage to a man who was one of her many psychoanalysts, her first husband is confined in a mental institution. Her relationship with her family is awkward and full of drama. She has big goals, but the fear keeps her from working towards those goals.

I read this book when I was 27, the same age as Isadora.  I understood who she was within the first few pages. Isadora represents and speaks for many of us when we are in our late 20’s. We are adults, but we may still be mired in our pasts or our fears keep us from reaching for our dreams, whatever they maybe.

When it comes to books, I usually take it as a good sign that within the first chapter, I can dive in emotionally early to the story and connect with the characters. I understood Isadora within the first few pages, I was hooked by the time I completed the first chapter. Jong is a master storyteller, her years of writing, introspection and using that introspection to emotionally connect to the reader and bring them into the world of her characters.

I highly recommend this book.


A Mother’s Day Read

I think it’s pretty safe to say that the people we are closest with are the ones who we have the most complicated relationships with. Our parents are certainly included in this category.

Erica Jong’s 1997 novel, Inventing Memory, is a multi generation novel delving into the often complicated and difficult relationships between mother’s and daughters.

In the early twentieth century, Sarah, a young Jewish woman, leaves Tsarist Russia for New York’s Lower East Side. She gains fame and fortune as a painter. Her daughter, Salome, becomes a writer, living in Paris in the decadent 1920’s and 1930’s.  Her daughter, Sally rockets to the top of the music charts in the 1960’s while engaging in the era’s open attitude to sex, drugs and rock and roll.  Her daughter, also named Sara, is dealing with the twin demons of a failing marriage and trying to figure out who she is.

Next to Fear Of Flying, this is my favorite Erica Jong book.  Fans of Jong’s books will immediately recognize her voice as writer. As she did in previous books, there is an undercurrent of feminism while exploring the minds of female characters whose lives and thoughts might have been ignored by other writers. What makes this book so good is that it’s about the universal subject that is the relationship between mothers and daughters.

I recommend this book.


Five Books That Every Woman Should Read

I’m a life long bookworm. I’ve many books, some good and some bad. But there are some that represent certain markers in my life, that I believe that every woman should read at least once in her life.

Little Women By Louisa May Alcott

Alcott’s Civil War era novel is timeless.  It is the story of the four March sisters: sensible Meg, tomboy Jo, shy Beth and wild child Amy.  Their father is away, serving in the Union Army. Jo wants to be a writer, but finds herself constricted by the rules of her era. Her best friend is the boy next door, Laurie.  It is a novel of growing up, of what it is to be a sister and have a sister.  The first time I read this book, I was in junior high school and it was the gateway book to what would become a very happy obsession with books and classic literature.

Pride and Prejudice By Jane Austen

I could not write about important books that have impacted my life and not write about Pride and Prejudice.  For the initiated, it is the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy and how they overcome the pride and prejudice that each has to find their life’s partner in each other. Yes, it is a love story, but there are so many human qualities to the novel.  Making mistakes, falling in love,  accepting your flaws and your partner’s flaws.  It’s no wonder that after 200 years, it still holds up.

Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte

Some might describe Charlotte Bronte’s iconic character as being born under an unlucky star.  Jane is an orphan, raised in her deceased uncle’s home by a wicked stepmother like aunt and treated like sh*t by her cousins. At the age of ten, she is taken to Lowood School, where the headmaster is cruel to the students. Eight years later, she takes a position at Thornfield Hall, where she is governess to the ward of the mysterious Edward Rochester.  Despite all of the obstacles that would keep most people down, Jane has courage, strength and follows her heart, even when she is tempted not to. Which is something we all need to remember.

The Feminine Mystique By Betty Friedan

This book is nothing short of earth shattering. Published in 1963, it was controversial in it’s day. Friedan’s exploration of the hypocrisy of what was considered to the be feminine ideal completely changed the world.  This book is instrumental in starting the second wave of the feminist movement and allowing future generations to enjoy the rights and achievements that Friedan’s generation would have never dreamed of.  My generation would not have what we have without this book.

Fear Of Flying By Erica Jong

Jong’s literary doppelganger, Isadora Wing is traveling with her husband to a work conference in Vienna.  She is in her late 20’s and at the point in her life where she is still questioning who she is and what she wants out of life. The character is an open book to the reader, emotionally and sexually. The openness of the character’s sexuality may shock some, but is the overall openness of the character is more shocking. That a female writer in the early 1970’s, would write so openly about what it is to be a woman and to be a woman of a certain age.  I read this book for the first time several years ago and I knew her instantly. This is a must read for any woman between the age of 25 and 30.


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