The April 14th New Yorker in “The Talk of the Town” section under the heading “The Canon: Still Flying” had a short piece by Rebecca Mead about a recent conference sponsored by Columbia University to celebrate Erica Jong’s 1973 novel FEAR OF FLYING “as a feminist classic.” Apparently many women in the audience agreed with this designation, and some did not.
I fall squarely in the group of those who do believe it is a feminist classic. In fact, as I write this, a 1973 copy of the book sits only a few feet away from me in a plastic box with other mementoes of my 20 months of living in
Why is a book published in 1973 part of my mementoes for the time period from September 1970 to May 1972?
It’s because of Jong’s chapter that begins this way: “Before I lived in
And, by the time I had first gotten to Jong’s description of living as an army officer’s wife in
Here are my favorite sentences from this section of the chapter:
And she goes on: “Across the way were our other neighbors, the Germans. In 1945, when they were still militarists, they had hated Americans for winning the war. Now, in 1966, the Germans were pacifists (at least where other nations were concerned) and they hated the Americans for being in
And here’s the best part: “I can still close my eyes and remember the dinner hour in
Her description of the army personnel buying numerous cuckoo clocks to ship back in their household goods to sell had me in stitches. (My disclaimer: My husband and I never bought a cuckoo clock for ourselves, although several of my letters home are concerned with whether my father’s brother-in-law did or did not want the cuckoo clock sold in the PX European catalog – this seems to have been a major decision worthy of several letters back and forth. Ultimately, he did not.)
The New Yorker article says that FEAR OF FLYING has sold 18 million copies worldwide since its publication. At the conference, one of Jong’s sisters said to Mead:
“It was not a novel; it was a memoir, but it was a memoir something like James Frey’s memoir.”
I wrote MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL to describe a very specific slice of women’s social history, just as FEAR OF FLYING describes a very specific slice of women’s social history.
While MRS. LIEUTENANT isn’t a memoir, the novel does portray much that was factual at that specific time in 1970 right after the Kent State National Guard shootings. In retrospect, my novel may owe part of its inspiration to Erica Jong and her – dare I say it even today – “zipless f**k.”