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 zipless.com, 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.

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.


%d bloggers like this: