Poetry News

Erica Jong Revisited at Jacket Copy

By Harriet Staff

Erica Jong

Talk about over the hill! Poet and novelist Erica Jong's landmark feminist text, Fear of Flying, is 40! And oh what a hill it has tread foot over. Jacket Copy's Irene Lacher speaks with Jong about her experiences leading up to Fear of Flying's publication and her life after.

Let's start with your fear of flying. Do you still have it?

I sometimes have a little fear when I get on the plane if I haven't flown for a while, but no. I got rid of it through writing the book, I think, because I flew so many places in the wake of it. My daughter [Molly Jong-Fast] went through this thing a lot of women go through where she got scared of flying after her kids were born. Then she went to a behaviorist who helped her a lot, and now she's flying again.

The irony must not have been lost on her.

She said that to me. She said, "I can't believe you wrote the book and you're not afraid of flying and I am."

Do you or your readers still find "Fear" transgressive?

Younger people tend to have the reaction, not enough has changed. Not that they find it particularly shocking, because the zipless bleep, as I have to call it, might well be a hook-up. But they're not saying they're having a lot of fun. In fact, a lot of young women tell me that when they read in "Fear of Flying" about [male impotence], they say, "That's what we're experiencing."

Do you have a sense from them of what's causing that now?

I think the empowerment of women has made men very nervous. I also think the constant availability of computer sex with perfect bodies has made men feel it's safer to go online than to risk a real person. But I'm not sure. It may well be that so many things have gone away — like courtship is gone, dating is gone. I hear a lot from young women that there's no romance — it's just bodies. And they want romance. For that matter, so do men.

Let's move on to marriage, which you critiqued in "Fear," in which you wrote: "Being unmarried in a man's world was such a hassle that anything had to be better." What's your take on that now?

I'm very surprised by how many women I meet lately who are quite happy being alone. I meet women in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s who are really quite happy being alone and don't feel incomplete. I don't see that panic of women being without a man. And maybe this is one of the gifts of feminism.

What does feminism mean now?

I think feminism means what it has always meant — women want to use all their gifts, all their talents and be judged impartially for them. I don't think feminism has ever meant anything else. It's been bad-mouthed in a million different ways, and many women have been fooled by that, but feminism only means that women want the right to be whole human beings. End of story.

Continue at Jacket Copy.

Originally Published: November 11th, 2013