Erica Jong

Active - 1995 - 2007  |   Born - Mar 26, 1942   |   Genres - Spirituality & Philosophy, Education, Culture & Society, Film, TV & Radio, Language & Literature

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Biography by Nathan Southern

Erica Jong qualifies as one of the most historically and culturally significant of all postwar women writers to emerge from the United States, as well as one of the more controversial. Jong emerged as a literary presence in 1973 with an era-defining novel entitled Fear of Flying that featured a female main character completely uninhibited by the guilt that many attach to sexual activity. Coming as it did at the height of the sexual revolution and the apex of the feminist movement, the book stood at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum from later works such as, for instance, Gay Talese's Thy Neighbor's Wife, which criticized the sexual revolution as male-dominated (and monetary-driven) manipulation of women; Jong conversely perceived the said revolution as a vehicle for complete psychosexual liberation, and reportedly lived out the principles exuded in Fear and later tomes, encouraging others to do the same. (According to one publication, she later described herself as a "devout pagan.")

Born into a Jewish family, as the child of a vaudevillian-turned-doll manufacturer father and an artist mother, Jong enrolled in Barnard College and initially planned to study medicine, but reportedly grew squeamish over dissections and switched to English and journalism instead. As indicated, Flying became an instant bestseller and turned Jong into a household name. In her personal life, Jong endured several failed marriages and a plethora of love affairs, and had a child, Molly, while authoring many romans and volumes of poetry. Her extensive bibliography includes the novels How to Save Your Own Life (1977), Fanny: Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones (1980), and Inventing Memory (1997); the nonfiction tome Witches (1981); and the poetry collections Half-Lives (1973) and Loveroot (1975). In 2007, Jong participated as an interviewee in the documentary Obscene, about Grove Press proprietor Barney Rosset.

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