Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fear of Flying

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

It feels like I've been reading this book forever, mostly due to scheduling issues. This weekend, however, I had a marathon read the final 3/4 of the book. It's not difficult, and when I actually spent the time to devote more than a few mintues to reading it, it went very quickly.

The book follows Isadora Wing, a married 29-year old Jewish woman on a trip to Vienna with her husband, Bennett, for a psycholanalyst convention (he's the psycholanalyst, she's along to write an article about it). While there, she meets Adrian, a British psycholanalyst who sweeps her off her feet. It's pretty much Portnoy's Compaint for women. Henry Miller thought that it was a woman's Tropic of Cancer, and I can definately see the connections, but this was much more readable, and the importance (to some degree or other) of Jewishness and the prevelance of analysts made me feel the novel's link to Roth was much more obvious. The second paragraph in Chapter nine begins, "When I think of my mother, I envy Alexander Portnoy. If only I had a real Jewish mother - easily pigeonholed and filed away - a real literary property."

This year, I've been reading a lot of books about people my own age...I'm not doing it on purpose, it's just kind of happening. Rabbit Angstrom, Katharina Blum, and Isadora Wing are all generally my age. But Isadora Wing...I get her. The pervasive anxiety about life, about marriage - what it means, who its with, and what type of relationship you should have with your spouse, the insane ex-husband, but particularly her issues with babies - I completely identify. "How did people decide to get pregnant, I wondered. It was such an awesome decision. In a way, it was such an arrogant decision. To undertake responsbility for a new life when you had no way of knowing what it would be like. I assumed that most women got pregnant without thinking about it because if they ever once considered what it really meant, they would surely be overwhelmed with doubt. I had none of that blind faith in chance which other women seemed to have. I always wanted to be in control of my fate. Pregnancy seemed like a tremendous abdication of control." Exactly. In my experience as a woman in her mid-turning-to-late twenties, most of my friends (who are also mid-turning-to-late twentysomethings) are in one of three camps: those that want children TODAY...they cannot get pregnant SOON ENOUGH; those that want children eventually, but are not really worried about it; and those that simply don't want children. I, on the other hand, have been wracked with uncertainty for a number of years. It's a love-hate relationship with the idea of pregnancy - on the one hand, the biological desire, which is completely illogical and inexplicable, and on the other the thought of the commitment, responsibility, body and relationship changes that will inevitably occur...am I ready for all of that? Can one ever actually truly ready for that? Probably not. But that doesn't stop me from losing sleep over the whole thing. I felt that Jong hit the nail on the head in describing a lot of what it's like to be a female in her late 20s. I might not have - or want - the exact life that is portrayed in Isadora Wing, but I can definately relate.

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