Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir

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9780060984328: Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir

A publishing event, a real-life novel, Fear of Fifty is the true story of the woman who 20 years ago showed her generation how to soar in Fear of Flying and now looks back -- and ahead -- to assess the costs, the rewards and the meaning of the journey.

Opening on her fiftieth birthday, Jong's midlife memoir reads like fast-paced fiction as it flashes back and forth in time to tell at last the truths at the heart of her novels. Poet, novelist, essayist, Jong has forged one of the most visible and volatile careers in American letters, and as a charter member of what she calls the "whiplash generation," she has had a front seat on the roller coaster American women have been riding for the past decades. Raised to be Doris Day, growing up wanting to be Gloria Steinem, now rearing daughters in the age of Princess Di and Madonna, today's women have had their expectations raised and dashed and raised and dashed again, as they've watched themselves go in and out of style like hemlines. Now, as she and her contemporaries look for answers to the second half of their lives, Jong offers powerful, provocative insights into sex, marriage and aging; feminism -- past, present and future; the writing life; motherhood and family; identity and love, loyalty and loss, drawn through the brilliant prism of her own experience.

In chapters such as "Fear of Fifty," "The Mad Lesbian in the Attic," "How I Got to Be the Second Sex," "How I Got to Be Jewish," "Fear of Fame," "Seducing the Muse," "Dona Juana Gets Smart," "Becoming Venetian" and "How to Get Married," Erica Jong takes readers on an impassioned, outrageous, irreverent tour de force through the sea changes that have defined a generation. From technical virginity to the sexual revolution to the AIDS pandemic; from The Feminine Mystique to "political correctness"; from monogamy to open marriage and back again; from stay-at-home moms to moms who have won the right to be eternally exhausted; from sexual secrecy to sexual openness -- Jong proves yet again her unique ability to tap into the inner lives of women and the issues that matter most to them.

Fear of Fifty is an intoxicating, riveting read, free-wheeling and fun, warm, tough and full of wisdom. Sure to be embraced by women everywhere, it is destined, like its classic predecessor Fear of Flying, to become required reading for a generation on the threshold of a new revolution.

Fear of Fifty is a funny, touching, unflinchingly honest cri de coeur about the joy and pain of being a fully sentient woman in the last half of the 20th century. Elegant and eloquent, this moving midlife meditation chronicles the daunting feat of juggling all at once the roles of wife, mother and lover; daughter, sister and friend; writer, feminist and Jew. Many women who came of age in the '60s and '70s will recognize Jong's struggles, contradictions, and hard-won conclusions as their own. -- Lisa Alther, author of Kinflicks

 

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About the Author:

Erica Jong, award-winning poet, novelist, and essayist, is best known for seven bestselling novels, including her most recent, Inventing Memory, and her midlife memoir, Fear of Fifty. She is a former president of the Authors Guild and frequent lecturer on women's rights, authors' rights, and free expression both here and abroad. She lives in New York City and Connecticut.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A half-century under her belt has not staled Jong's passion nor has painful controversy withered her talent for unflinching observation. This memoir is Jong's (The Devil at Large, 1993) meditation on what it all means for women encountering 50. ``We are the Whiplash Generation,'' she says, ``raised to be Doris Day...yearning to be Gloria Steinem, [and raising] our midlife daughters in the age of Nancy Reagan and Princess Di.'' Jong now has a husband (no. 4), a 14-year-old daughter, a mother and father, and a senile aunt for whom she is responsible. In chapters often fliply titled--``The Mad Lesbian in the Attic'' (about her aunt); ``Donna Juana Gets Smart'' (about loving ``bad boys'')-- Jong ruminates eloquently and movingly on her roots (she's the granddaughter of Eastern European Jews and the privileged daughter of parents with frustrated callings to art and music), her flamboyant life (frequently played out in public since the appearance of Fear of Flying 21 years ago), and on being a woman in the '90s (``From the vantage point of fifty, the discriminatory cycle is utterly clear...we know we have reasons for despair''). The Erica Jong of the irrepressible libido and the Anglo-Saxon vocabulary is here. But a mellower Jong mocks her own infatuation with Literature with a capital ``L,'' regrets the messiness of her divorce from Jonathan Fast (the father of her daughter), and delves into her Jewishness, spirituality, love, and work. A chapter titled ``Men Are Not the Problem'' ponders the cruelty of women to one another. Reflecting bitterness-turned-to- puzzlement about the antagonism many feminists have felt to her work, she argues that women who demand political correctness- -whatever that may be in a given year--perpetuate separatism and sexism. With a quotable line on almost every page, Jong's story is more than flash and fire--there's poetry and wisdom, too. (First serial to Parade and Cosmopolitan; Literary Guild selection; $130,000 ad/promo; author tour) -- Copyright 1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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