0452 | Fear of Flying | Erica Jong

0452 | Fear of Flying | Erica Jong

Context: What better place to read this than an airport. This is the mosque at Dammam Airport.

This book took me very much by surprise. There were mixed reviews online but I thought it was a very bold work of genius. When you consider that this was first published in 1974, it must have sounded a resounding crack across the bows of HMS Misogyny.

Jong has created one of the enduring characters of literature with Isadora Wing, the mixed up narrator who relates the relational messes she has found herself in throughout her life. Flashbacks to previous relationships puncture the contemporary narrative of a trip with her psychoanalyst husband to a convention in Vienna where she meets what she believes will be the answer to all her romantic and sexual longings.

In a way, Adrian does provide her with the answer, and it’s not necessarily one that feminists at the time, less so today, would feel altogether satisfied with. Still, for me, the novel’s strength lies in the way Jong used Isadora to explore what the roles of men and women in marriage actually mean.

Jong writes in a deceptively racy style. It’s easy to forget that there are layers of imagery here starting with the title and continuing throughout this very quotable novel. There were a lot of passages I felt compelled to read out to the wife for her view. It’s a great discussion starter.

This was an important book in the feminist canon, not necessarily because it provides all the answers, but because it honestly deals with the dilemmas of the issues involved. I liked the fact that it raised more questions than it answered, that the ending didn’t wrap everything up perfectly but left some element of doubt about whether Isadora had done the right thing. That seems to me a much more honest approach than attempting some Rand-ish polemic about the ideal roles of men and women. Life is messy; two lives together messier still. And that’s the way it will always be.

OPENING LINE

There were 117 psychoanalysts on the Pan Am flight to Vienna and I’d been treated by at least six of them.

QUOTES

“Dancing is like [sex],” I said, “it doesn’t matter how you look – just concentrate on how you feel.”

There is nothing fiercer than a failed artist. the energy remains but, having no outlet, it implodes in a great black fart of rage which smokes up all the inner windows of the soul.

that second stage of love which consists of nostalgia for the first stage. That second stage of love which comes when you desperately feel you are falling out of love and cannot stand the thought of still another loss.

Marriage was tricky because in some ways it was always a folie a deux. At times you scarcely knew where your own lunacies left off and those of your spouse began. You tended to b lame yourself too much, or not enough, or for the wrong things. And you tended to confuse dependency with love.

CLOSING LINE

This might reveal the ending. If you want to see the quote, click show

PROGRESS fearp
RATING 0452 | Fear of Flying | Erica Jong
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | StyleRead more about how I come up with my ratings

 

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