Book #87: Fear of Flying

Evidently Fear of Flying by Erica Jong is one of the classics of second-wave feminism. It’s also a pretty decent book for twenty-something women going through existential crises. In the afterword of the book, Jong writes, “The twenties are as frenetic a decade as the teens. You have a voice inside your head repeating I want, I want, I want, but you hardly know WHAT you want or how to get it. You hardly know who you are. You go on instinct. And your instinct mostly pushes you toward adventures you won’t grasp until you look back on them. Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward, some sage once said.”

In just a few sentences, she summed up twenty-somethings better than a thousand articles from Thought Catalog and every other place on the internet. I’m grateful to Jong for giving me a “sound byte” quote to go to if I need to express how I’m feeling. It’s nice.

I wasn’t quite as sold on Fear of Flying as I could have been, however.

It’s the story of the nervous young twenty-something named Isadora Wing, who always seems to find herself involved with psychoanalysts. Isadora is on a search for happiness and herself. She’s on her second marriage – to a psychoanalyst – and trying to figure out who she wants to be. When she meets an older, alluring British psychoanalyst, Isadora really starts to think about who she is and what she wants.

At times, it was gratifying to read the voice of a woman I could really relate to on a deep level. Isadora wants to go on adventures (she traveled the world with a girlfriend for awhile) and focuses on finding herself. Her family doesn’t understand why she won’t have children. As her mother and sisters question her about why she won’t have children already and Isadora repeatedly explains that she doesn’t want children, they insist that she doesn’t understand how fulfilled and happy she will be when she does.

Although this is a pretty minor part of the book, it’s interesting that all these years later, people are still bugging young women to settle down and have babies. It’s not like I constantly have people asking “when are you going to get married and have kids?”, but it’s been referenced several times. I don’t want children, but my mom and sister are still pretty convinced that I’ll have at least one kid. I suppose time will tell. I’m hoping they don’t hold their breaths.

That’s about all I have to say about Fear of Flying. It must have meant a lot to a lot of women back when it was first published. And I’m sure it’s probably still really life-changing to a lot of people. It’s not often you read things where women are so open about their sexual exploits and other issues. To be honest, I thought the book was a little bit disgusting, with all the references to bodily functions, fluids, and sex. It wasn’t what I’d call pornographic, I consider it disgusting the way I consider pretty much all Chuck Palahniuk books disgusting. Just a lot of references to bodily functions. Apparently I’m more of a Puritan than I realize; I prefer my books to be clean.

All in all, Isadora Wing was a very interesting female protagonist. If I was more into feminist writings (I’m not, at all) and things like that, I probably would have enjoyed the book more. Still, I’m glad I read Fear of Flying.

Rating: ***
Up Next: Christ Stopped At Eboli

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