November 20, 2019

Erica Jong’s latest novel combats ‘Fear of Dying’ through sexual healing

Rarely does a best-selling novel both capture and define the spirit of an age, but I can think of two good examples — Philip Roth’s “Portnoy’s Complaint” and Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying,” each of which played an iconic role in the sexual revolution of the 1970s. To put it another way, what Roth did for raw liver, Jong did for the zipper.

That’s why a zipper is featured prominently on the front cover of Jong’s latest novel, “Fear of Dying” (St. Martin’s Press), a first-person account by a character named Vanessa Wonderman, who is likely to strike us as very much like Jong herself. As a wink and a nod to her readers, Vanessa’s “BFF” is Isadora Wing, the memorable woman whose sexual adventures were described in “Fear of Flying.”

“Life is passion. But now I know what passion costs, so it’s hard to be quite so carefree anymore,” Vanessa muses. “My husband and I read the obituaries together more often than we have sex.”

[Q&A with Erica Jong: