Erica Jong is an American novelist and poet, known particularly for her 1973 novel Fear of Flying. The book became famously controversial for its attitudes towards female sexuality and figured prominently in the development of second-wave feminism. According to Washington Post, it has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
Fear of Flying is a quasi-memoir following the ups and downs of Jewish American woman, Isadora Zelda White Stollerman Wing. She is married and moves to Vienna with her analyst husband, Bennett. While they have a great sex life and beautiful life together, there’s a lack of communication in the marriage that develops slowly over time into an icy distance between them. While in Vienna, she falls for a British psychopath, Adrian Goodlove. The book dives into the emotions of adultery, sex, desire, marriage, and most importantly, the restlessness of the female condition.
According to Katy Waldman’s Slate article on the book’s 40th year anniversary, “Unlike the suppressed wants of some of her contemporaries (housewives with “lives pickled in fantasy,” she memorably writes, “making babies out of their loneliness and boredom and not knowing why”), her hungers lie exposed. They tend to contradict each other: spontaneous, commitment-free sex, lifelong partnership, excitement, safety, rebellion, approval, children, no children, challenging work, a checkered apron, literary fame and peaceful obscurity. Most of all, Isadora wants answers—how do you get all these things? Where do you look? To a husband, a lover, a parent, a faith, a vocation, yourself?”
If you haven’t read the book, I highly suggest you do. What’s most important about it is the catharsis that comes with realizing you’re not the only “crazy one” out there. In fact, you’re not crazy at all. You’re a woman with emotions, thoughts and feelings. And as much as men (and the world) want to make you feel insane for having those feelings, they’re logical, necessary, and most importantly, they’re yours.
If you aren’t going to read the book, at least take some time to explore the most thought provoking lines from Jung:
“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.”
“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back….”
“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.”
“I have not ceased being fearful, but I have ceased to let fear control me.”
“Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.”
“You go through life looking for a teacher and then when you find him, you become so dependent on him that you grow to hate him. Or else you wait for him to show his weakness and then you despise him for being human.”
“My dialogues are all between my selves.”
“And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”
“We are so scared of being judged that we look for every excuse to procrastinate.”
“Women are their own worst enemies. And guilt is the main weapon of self-torture . . . Show me a woman who doesn’t feel guilty and I’ll show you a man.”
“Women are the only exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness.”
“Men have always detested women’s gossip because they suspect the truth: their measurements are being taken and compared.”
“Every decision I have made – from changing jobs, to changing partners, to changing homes – has been taken with trepidation. I have not ceased being fearful, but I have ceased to let fear control me. I have accepted fear as a part of life, specifically the fear of change, the fear of the unknown, and I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back, turn back, you’ll die if you venture too far… In the past several years I have learned, in short, to trust myself. Not to eradicate fear but to go on in spite of fear.
“She lives as if she is constantly on the brink of some great fulfillment. As if she were waiting for Prince Charming to take her away “from all this”. All what? The solitude of living inside her own soul? The certainty of being herself instead of half of something else?”
“She died of internal weeping”
“I could become servile, cloying, saccharinely sweet: the whole package of lies that passes in the world as femininity.”
“Sometimes it was worth all the disadvantages of marriage just to have that: one friend in an indifferent world.”
“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.”
“Tears are a form of communication – like speech – and require a listener.”