I’d heard of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying for decades. It’s known of course as a racy novel about a married woman who is in search of the “zipless f*&^”–an affair without any emotional attachments. But what I didn’t know was that Fear of Flying is an AMWF novel featuring Jewish writer Isadora Wing and her Chinese-American psychoanalyst husband Bennett Wing.
The novel opens on a Pan Am flight from New York to Vienna as Isadora and Bennett head to a psychoanalyst conference to commemorate Freud. On the flight were a hundred psychoanalysts, several of whom had treated Isadora. But not all remembered her. Jong is a humorous writer who pokes fun of analysis and the stodgy–mostly Jewish–practitioners who dominated the field in the seventies. Bennett is Chinese, so stands out. Yet he’s very respected and well-known in his field.
Once in Vienna, Isadora meets Adrian, a dashiki-wearing, long-haired hippie British psychoanalyst who is also in town for the conference. Adrian woos Isadora and soon the two are off on a cross-European jaunt, leaving Bennett in Vienna. Somewhere along the way, Isadora realizes she doesn’t want Adrian and wonders if it’s too late to return to Bennett.
I thought the book was entertaining and intelligent and not the fluffy beach read I’d imagined it to be for so long. Jong’s real life kind of mirrors her novel. She was married to a Chinese-American psychiatrist for a decade around the time she wrote the book, but they would divorce a couple years after the book came out.
It’s interesting now to look at how American views of femininity have not changed very much in the 40+ years since Erica Jong wrote Fear of Flying.