Author Erica Jong flying high, 40 years on from debut

See on Scoop.itBrian Castellani

HONG KONG — In her own words, Erica Jong wanted to “slice open a woman’s head and show everything happening inside” when she wrote her debut novel “Fear of Flying”, first published 40 years ago.

Brian Castellani‘s insight:

HONG KONG — In her own words, Erica Jong wanted to "slice open a woman’s head and show everything happening inside" when she wrote her debut novel "Fear of Flying", first published 40 years ago.

 

The book, which is set for an anniversary re-release this year, became a sensation in 1973 and went on to shift more than 20 million copies in 40 different languages. But reaction to it also illustrated that the inside of a woman’s head — at least as Jong saw it — could be a polarising place.

"You can tell when a book matters when people argue about it," the 71-year-old author and ardent feminist told AFP in an interview.

"Some people hate it, some people love it," she said of her debut novel. "I think that’s what writers are made to do — we’re the earthworms, we aerate the soil. I’m proud of that."

 

The story of Isadora Wing, who is five years into her second marriage to a psychiatrist but laments that sex with him now brings "no thrill to the tastebuds, no bittersweet edge, no danger", struck a chord with millions.

In 1973, such uninhibited sexual frankness and liberal swearing from a female perspective caused a stir in the publishing world. In the book, Wing rages that "men have always defined femininity as a means of keeping women in line".

 

Jong says she had wanted to explore sex in the way Philip Roth and John Updike had done — but from a female mindset. The difference in the way she was treated, she says, smacked of an inequality that continues to this day.

 

"I have come to understand what it’s like to be a woman writer in a world in which women are still looked at as breasts and pussies," the typically blunt New York-born author said.

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