'Fear of Flying' by Erica Jong (1973)

Didn’t like this book. At all. I kept telling myself, “It was written in 1973. I’m sure it was a revolutionary portrayal of woman as a sexual being. Blah blah blah trying-to-make-allowances-cakes.” But I still didn’t like it. It wasn’t, you know, well-written.

I admit that I’m a bit of a prude and all of Isadora’s talk of douching herself with wine and vinegar and trying to examine her genitalia in the mirror as an adolescent isn’t my idea of captivating reading. But even if Jong’s exploring a female’s interest in sex was groundbreaking it doesn’t seem to have presented a particularly female point of view of sex. In fact, Isadora’s experiences and fantasies seem to fit quite well into the standard repertoire of male sexual fantasies. I mean, twice the woman is practically—well, pretty much raped and Jong doesn’t give the reader any insight into her reaction. Rather, she describes how the men responded.

The entire novel seems to be a half-assed self-help exercise of sorts. I mean, it actually says, “People don’t complete us. We complete ourselves.” Excuse me while I vomit. If Isadora is supposed to be the typical feminist of the early ’70s, I’m glad that I was -10 at that point. She contradicts herself and suggests all “so-called feminists” really just want to be married and pregnant. She wasn’t a sympathetic character to begin with and instead of making her sympathetic Jong chooses to detail three of Isadora’s previous relationships. These men were interesting when mentioned briefly; when their entire relationship is explained in excruciating detail, only her crazy ex-husband manages to remain interesting. But sadly I found his character more interesting than Isadora. Isadora’s account of her and Bennett’s bad years in Germany did garner some sympathy for her though. Too bad there was more book after that.

Oh, and could Jong have made Adrian any less appealing? If Jong was going for some kind of declaration about women as sexual creatures being okay, why did she make Isadora look absolutely insane for instantly being attracted to a man who grabs her ass three seconds after meeting her?