Take Two

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Erica Jong talks new book, 'Fear of Dying,' feminism today

by Take Two

Host Alex Cohen with author Erica Jong.

In 1973, writer Erica Jong revolutionized the world of literature with her book, "Fear of Flying."

The novel offered a fresh perspective on sex from a woman's point of view, and it struck a chord.

"Fear of Flying" has sold more than 27 million copies worldwide. 

Monday night, Jong will be appear at Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena to talk about her newest book, "Fear of Dying." She joined host Alex Cohen with more. 

Interview highlights

When you were in your 30s and "Fear of Flying" came out, were you thinking at all at that point about, 'What am I going to be like as a 60-year-old woman?'

"I really started to think about fear of dying when my parents became very frail. My mother died at 101, my father at 93. At the moment in my life when they became frailer, and frailer, and frailer, I started making notes for the book that became 'Fear of Dying.' At that time I didn't know it would become 'Fear of Dying,' but I began to make notes: what it smelled like in my parents' room, what the caregivers were like, my own feelings of distress about ... that this would be me someday, with my daughter Molly. And the specificity of mortality was there, and that became 'Fear of Dying.'" 

How do you make peace with 60 when so much of it is kind of dreadful and scary?

"In life, we go through many transitions. We go through the transition of 'Fear of Flying.' Isadora is 29 going on 30. Vanessa [the main character in 'Fear of Dying'] is 60 pretending to be 50. A beautiful, beautiful actress, who is beautiful. We are beautiful in our 60s. We are beautiful in our 70s. Some women are beautiful in their 80s. And as my shrink always says to me, when I say I'm terrified that Ken will die, my beloved husband of 26 years, my fourth and last husband, my shrink says, 'You'll never be alone. Women like you are never alone.'"

What is your personal stance on feminism now?

"Feminism has come back, despite the fact that the corporate press is slandering Hilary again, despite the fact that the Tea Party is trying to close down all the Planned Parenthood clinics. Feminism is back, and I'm here to say, it's coming back. What we really need is a council of grandmothers making the war and peace decisions. And if I were writing Hilary's scripts I would not be talking about Charlotte and Chelsea. I would be talking about the fact that the United States needs -- as the Native Americans, whom we displaced, they had a council of grandmothers that decided on war and peace. The Braves fought the war, but the grandmothers decided when. And I think we have to go back to that grandmother power. And you know what? We have a real shot at it, but not if we elect the Republicans."    

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue audio player above

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