Fear of Flying, Erica Jong’s first and most famous novel published in 1973, blew conventional thinking about women, marriage and sexuality out of the water, selling over 27 million copies and being translated into over 40 languages. Her novel articulated what women thought but which, through decades of silent complicity with the status quo, was never voiced. In Isadora Wing, her fictional doppelganger, Erica created every woman – not as she existed in public life in the 70s, but inside a woman’s own mind. Sex and sexuality, while being at the core of most of Jong’s writing, is almost incidental to what makes her one of the world’s most iconic writers. It’s not the sex itself but the fact that she quietly flouted the unspoken norms of the day to talk about it unblinkingly – neither voyeur, nor prude – that made her a pillar of the sexual revolution and a hero to millions, as well as gaining her the admiration of writers like John Updike, Henry Miller, Anthony Burgess and Jennifer Weiner.
In the four decades since Fear of Flying, she’s published over 25 books in 43 languages, including 9 works of fiction as well as celebrated non-fiction volumes such as What Do Women Want, Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life, an anthology on – well, sex – called Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex that she edited, and in 2012, a Kindle Single, A Letter to the President, which bravely takes on the issues facing American women today. Comfortable and eloquent in various genres, she has switched between fiction, non-fiction and poetry almost effortlessly, becoming one of the most evocative poets of her generation with 7 published volumes, and winning Poetry magazine’s respected Bess Hokin Prize.
Erica has won many awards for poetry and fiction all over the world. These awards include: The Fernanda Pivano award in Italy, The Sigmund Freud Award in Italy, the Deauville Award in France and The United Nations Award for excellence in literature.
The true star of Erica’s writing is courage. She’s spoken openly of her demons with writing and her chronic self-doubt. She’s dared to examine under a public microscope her most intimate relationships – with her fiery mother who raged with anger at having to sacrifice a painting career to look after family; with her four husbands who included a writer, a psychiatrist and her current husband of 26 years, a divorce lawyer; and with her beloved daughter, writer and satirist Molly Jong-Fast.
Erica’s new novel, Fear of Dying, brings together a career of writing, reflecting, asking questions, trying to solve the puzzle of her own life, and in turn will help shed light on the lives of so many others. Questioning herself with deep honesty, Erica Jong continues to open the sealed doors of our lives. (About Erica Jong)
I’m not a huge Erica Jong fan, even though women are supposed to be in awe of her. But this one poem never fails to make me very sad because I figure there are an awful lot of marriages where the he’s and she’s still love each other but have built such high walls between them from the debris of their daily lives that when they attempt to scale and climb over to the other, they fall back down exhausted on their own side from the effort. This poem — in my thinking — is what happens then in a lot of marriages. Perhaps before folks get married they ought to be required to take classes in mountain climbing… And issued climbing gear which they keep in their closets just in case… And oxygen masks because the air is so thin up there… You never know. It just might help them summit!
Parable Of The Four-Poster
Because she wants to touch him,
she moves away.
Because she wants to talk to him,
she keeps silent.
Because she wants to kiss him,
she turns away
& kisses a man she does not want to kiss.
thinking she does not want him.
hearing her silence.
He turns away
thinking her distant
& kisses a girl he does not want to kiss.
They marry each other –
A four-way mistake.
He goes to bed with his wife
thinking of her.
Sher goes to bed with her husband
thinking of him.
-& all this in a real old-fashioned four-poster bed.
Do they live unhappily ever after?
Do they undo their mistakes ever?
Who is the victim here?
Love is the victim.
Who is the villain?
Love that never dies.