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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fear of Flying (1973) by Erica Jong

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Erica Jong's narrator in Fear of Flying very much resembled herself in terms of her physical description and life history, a point made very clear by the author herself in her post script to the 20th anniversary edition of the book.
Book Review
Fear of Flying (1973)
 by Erica Jong

  This crucial document in the history of second-wave feminism was also a million copy bestseller. I remember seeing it on the bookshelves of the homes of my childhood friends parents in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1980's and early 1990's. If only I had known then how racy it was, I surely would have read it in high school. I think there is also a strong case to be made that Fear of Flying was the first novel that can accurately be described as "chick-lit."  It is clear, if only from the obsessive literary referencing of the author-esque  narrator, Isadora Zelda White Stollerman Wing, that author Jong was well familiar with the entire history of books written by men and women about female sexuality.  D.H. Lawrence and Doris Lessing serve as reference points of particular gravity.  Lawrence is reference a half dozen times by the characters in the book, and Isadora Wing actually uses a bulky complicated notebook to organize her in-book writing materials, a la Lessing in The Golden Notebook.

  Jong's use of a breezy, magazines copy influenced narrative voice is what distinguishes her from other literary pioneers of female sexuality.  Considering the sizable percentage of contemporary books and movies that are either chick-lit or chick-lit derived, it's worth considering Jong's accomplishment of fusing her very literary concern with the depiction of contemporary female sexuality with the narrative voice of a proto-Carrie Bradshaw or Bridgette Jones.  I'm not trying to diminish anyone by making that comparison, only to say that the later would be unthinkable without the former, particularly the healthy sale of the former.  I imagine the presence of Fear of Flying on the best seller list's in the mid 1970's must have set off an earthquake in New York and London publishing firms.

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