Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, offers up magic wit and words that roll effortlessly off the tongue. Published in 1973, Jong was lucky that her book hit the market right when female writers were finally free to express what they really thought and felt. Readers were either horrified or affirmed by the blatant sexuality of women’s writing, and Jong popularized the term “zipless fuck” referring to sex without attachment.
Jong captures the story of a woman searching for herself. Isadora Wing has always felt lost in family and in men. Her relationship with her second husband begins as a rebound after the first one ends up in a mental hospital. Then at a therapist’s convention in Vienna she becomes obsessed with an enlightened asshole (they usually are), running off with him and leaving her stoic husband behind. Through a trail of European cities she reflects on her life, her guilt, her needs and her love of being a writer.
I don’t think that writers in general are suited to relationships. We’re a solitary lot, living up in our heads, with not much grip on reality. As a single person I was very independent and never had a traditional relationship. There was a steady flow of the most inappropriate men; I adored all of them, and still do, but at a certain point, I outgrew their immaturity. “The numerous and often rapidly changing infatuations of artists were designed to keep the illusion alive (Jong, 228).”
Living in all of the reality I share with my husband has been somewhat shocking. Sometimes I feel the weight of his life overshadowing my own as I work and wait for some kind of success to occur. He is extremely social, boisterous, strong, and as stubborn and sensitive as I am. Our savior is the love for writing that we both share.
When we first met, I was at a bar with mutual friends; bored, waiting to go home, and depressed by the lack of decent conversation. My friend told him that he should talk to me because we had much in common. He sat down next to me on a bench by the pool table and said, “I know what it is to be a writer. Your mind is never at rest and you are haunted with the need to write.” He woke me up completely. For twelve years my writing has always come first, and now with my husband’s belief I’ve grown far beyond what I thought was possible in my work. He is always challenging me to kick down the walls and get further into the core of my stories. Sometimes it takes six months to take him up on his advice. At other times, his ideas are horrible. But the suggestions always get me thinking about the narrative in a new way.
I think the key to having a successful marriage is to know yourself before ever entering a serious relationship. I’d been living alone for years, I’d gotten “zipless fucks” out of my system, and I knew exactly who I was through the experiences of failure and struggle. Without all of that life experience it would have been easy to get completely lost in a relationship, suffocated in codependency. We are both independent – but through our experience together have learned so much more about ourselves.
I saw much of myself in Fear of Flying. But beyond that, Jong showed me what my own voice could be. She showed me how wide it can speak, how far your tangents can flow, and how every thought is fodder. You can feel that freedom she is beginning to experience in the way that she writes - freedom to live, to write, to love.