‘Fear’-less Erica Jong taps into her creative ‘Demon’
By Heather V. Eng
The Boston Herald
The Big Question
Sunday, April 9, 2006
Erica Jong’s first novel, 1973’s “Fear of Flying,” was both shocking and revolutionary with its blatant eroticism, and it propelled the then-31-year-old writer into the literary spotlight.
Now, more than three decades and 20 books later, Jong reflects on her career in her latest effort, “Seducing the Demon.”
Who is the demon and how did you seduce him?
The demon is the creative spirit and it inhabits different people at different points in your life. You seduce the demon by going into a trance - sometimes love or infatuation is part of it, sometimes not. But it’s really the book you want, not the demon.
Do today’s young, female writers have it harder or easier than you did?
It’s a hard profession, but I think it was easier when I began than it is for young writers now. Publishers now are much more commercial-minded. They try to figure out what the book will sell before they even accept the book, which squeezes out individuality. The young women writers, like my daughter (Molly Jong-Fast), are put into the pigeonhole of chick lit. And the men are expected to be like Sebastian Junger and write about adventures. When I started, it was a time of great experimentation. People expected women writers to experiment with form and not write the same type of novel. I think it’s even more sexist (now) than when I started.
Are you sick of being known as “Erica Jong, coiner of the ‘zipless (expletive)’ ”?
Oh yeah. I get sick of hearing about “Fear of Flying,” but people won’t let it go. I’ve always wanted to expand and grow as a writer, but in America, people are so crazed with success. Whatever is your best-selling book is what they harp on.
How do you feel about “Fear of Flying” now?
I’m proud of it. It’s a very young book. There’s no way to read it and not realize it was written by somebody in her twenties. When I read it now, I think that it’s got good energy, it’s gutsy, but it’s not all I want to do in life.
In “Seducing the Demon” you write, “Never trust a writer - not even a dead one.” How, then, are we supposed to take what’s in your book?
My husband knows my daughter and I will exaggerate for the sake of a good story. But in a memoir, there has to be a basis in fact. Everything actually happpened. But perhaps my emotional stress (in the memoir) isn’t where people in my family might put it. People have different views of the history they share.
What piece of advice do you hope young writers will take from “Seducing the Demon”?
If you need to write, never give up.
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