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Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir

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Seducing the Demon has introduced Erica Jong to readers who hadn't been born when Fear of Flying was published in 1973. Now one of her finest works of nonfiction -and a New York Times bestseller-is back in print with a new afterword. In Fear of Fifty, a New York Times bestseller when first published in 1994, Erica Jong looks to the second half of her life and "goes right t Seducing the Demon has introduced Erica Jong to readers who hadn't been born when Fear of Flying was published in 1973. Now one of her finest works of nonfiction -and a New York Times bestseller-is back in print with a new afterword. In Fear of Fifty, a New York Times bestseller when first published in 1994, Erica Jong looks to the second half of her life and "goes right to the jugular of the women who lived wildly and vicariously through Fear of Flying" (Publishers Weekly), delivering highly entertaining stories and provocative insights on sex, marriage, aging, feminism, and motherhood. "What Jong calls a midlife memoir is a slice of autobiography that ranks in honesty, self-perception and wisdom with [works by] Simone de Beauvoir and Mary McCarthy," wrote the Sunday Times (U.K.). "Although Jong's memoir of a Jewish American princess is wittier than either."


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Seducing the Demon has introduced Erica Jong to readers who hadn't been born when Fear of Flying was published in 1973. Now one of her finest works of nonfiction -and a New York Times bestseller-is back in print with a new afterword. In Fear of Fifty, a New York Times bestseller when first published in 1994, Erica Jong looks to the second half of her life and "goes right t Seducing the Demon has introduced Erica Jong to readers who hadn't been born when Fear of Flying was published in 1973. Now one of her finest works of nonfiction -and a New York Times bestseller-is back in print with a new afterword. In Fear of Fifty, a New York Times bestseller when first published in 1994, Erica Jong looks to the second half of her life and "goes right to the jugular of the women who lived wildly and vicariously through Fear of Flying" (Publishers Weekly), delivering highly entertaining stories and provocative insights on sex, marriage, aging, feminism, and motherhood. "What Jong calls a midlife memoir is a slice of autobiography that ranks in honesty, self-perception and wisdom with [works by] Simone de Beauvoir and Mary McCarthy," wrote the Sunday Times (U.K.). "Although Jong's memoir of a Jewish American princess is wittier than either."

30 review for Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    tee

    I haven't read any of Jong's other books and I don't know I'd want to. Probably a strange thing to do; read her memoir of sorts and not really have idea of who she is or what she's written but recently I was going through my bookshelves and was disgusted at how many books I own that I haven't yet read. Jong's "Fear of Fifty" being one of them. So before I get to read one of my tasty new books that are sitting on my nightstand, I had to force myself to read one of the neglected ones on my shelves I haven't read any of Jong's other books and I don't know I'd want to. Probably a strange thing to do; read her memoir of sorts and not really have idea of who she is or what she's written but recently I was going through my bookshelves and was disgusted at how many books I own that I haven't yet read. Jong's "Fear of Fifty" being one of them. So before I get to read one of my tasty new books that are sitting on my nightstand, I had to force myself to read one of the neglected ones on my shelves, so I read this. I did agree with most of what she had to say, and some of it made me giggle or nod my head with glee. Things such as, "Men are very simple creatures. Feed 'em, fuck 'em, but withhold the keys to the castle. Territorial to the core, they're sweetest when they don't park their shoes under the bed." She screwed a lot of dudes, got what she wanted and sent them home to their wives. I dig that. Or maybe I dig her admtting that. Anyway, I'm one page from finishing and she mentions something about taking pills "last year" to curb her appetite and lose weight. I wish I'd read more of her inner tortures and failings instead of having to hear about who's she was banging or how much she loves writing, blah blah, I neglected my daughter to write, I love writing, I would die without writing, I am a writer hear me roar. Boring. And I hate her poetry, it's shit. I wish she hadn't peppered her boring text with her sappy lame poems, it hurt my head. Jong, you aren't Nin, or anywhere near being anyone of that calibre. Thank fuck you didn't call yourself "Erica Orlando" as threatened in the pages of this book, I would have disliked you even more. I mean, love or hate Woolf but she was still ten times the tortured genius that Jong is. But she's sometimes funny, like when she brought her daughter Molly home, she writes that her dog "Poochkin left turds of outrage in the corners of every room." Turds of outrage! That's some funny shit right there. Maybe I'd had too many wines when I underlined that with an ecstatically, wobbly line but still. Turds of outrage! Poochkin, you're my hero! She seemed a bit vapid, self-obsessed and high-and-mighty. She name dropped. She thought everything was a phallic symbol (pens, drawings of snakes, the list goes on), she talked about "fatties" condescendingly. If I could be arsed, I'd write a more critical analysis but as it stands, she rubbed me the wrong way for too many little reasons. This review is as shallow as her shitty memoir. What am I trying to say. I think she wanted to be a tortured genius artist/poet/writer and just kind of failed. Is this too harsh a judgment considering I've never read her other books? Regardless, her memoir sucked so I'm judging her on that. == I like memoirs but tend to only fall in love when the person is actually interesting. Or genuinely fucked up. Or has something unique to say. Jong failed in all regards.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Saski

    The four months before my fiftieth birthday I spent in what would be our new home, alone. And not only alone in the sense of being the only one living in the house, but also in the sense of human life around me, for our new home lies deep in the forest in a tiny village of (now 8, (but then 5). No shops, no restaurants, no cinema, no trappings of 'civilization', or at least not without driving an hour and a quarter or more. My goals were two-fold: Could I survive in such an environment, and coul The four months before my fiftieth birthday I spent in what would be our new home, alone. And not only alone in the sense of being the only one living in the house, but also in the sense of human life around me, for our new home lies deep in the forest in a tiny village of (now 8, (but then 5). No shops, no restaurants, no cinema, no trappings of 'civilization', or at least not without driving an hour and a quarter or more. My goals were two-fold: Could I survive in such an environment, and could I learn the language? I am happy to say 'yes' to both. Not that it wasn't difficult at times, scary, depressing, lonely, but I could stand my own company, and not only survive but thrive. And I got the language. Due to a mix-up at the airport, I could only take about a third of stuff I had packed for such a venture. The hurried reorganization of everything resulted in flying underwear (and the loss of my coat just before traveling to the far north in mid-winter, but that's a story for another time), but the book chosen for this epic period of my life Fear of Fifty manage to get on board. Amazingly, I didn't fear the coming half century. Crossing the thirty mark was far more difficult. My fortieth my partner made fun by throwing a completely unusual party and instigating a tradition: doing something new and different each birthday, especially the decade ones. So I didn't fear the up-coming Five-O but I brought the book just in case there was something I should know or learn from it. My notes from that reading, the spring of 2007 in my tiny village, goes like this: Not always easy to get through, but well, WELL worth the effort. Skimming it for this review seven years later, I discovered I had marked a lot (and I mean A LOT) of passages, most of which I still find relevant. I have added them to my quotes if anyone is interested. The odd thing I did find is that although Jong and I are technically in the same 'generation' -- i.e., Baby Boomers, we come from different ends of the spectrum, thus explaining our very different life experiences. By the time I reached adulthood, many more doors were open and I didn't see marriage as my only option. I still don't though I have been married twice, both long-term. The four-month period mentioned at the beginning of this review, confirmed for me that I can if I must live happily on my own. Marriage is a choice, I am happy to say. But what about the book? Jong is much less whiny in this than in Fear of Flying, much more mature, as one would expect. I found the tone a relief. She is somewhat repetitive, but again not nearly as much so as in Fear of Flying, again a relief. There is so much to be gained by reading this book or even in skimming it to revisit passages, that I would recommend it to anyone.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dawne

    I would have to agree with Susan Cheever that this is the best book about being a woman I have ever read. I seem to be devouring the memoirs of women of a certain age, as they keep me from total panic over my impending birthday. Here's a little nugget I liked: Part of us wants to love like the goddesses-- coldly and capriciously. Part of us owes allegiance to Kali, eating her lover and attaching his skull to her waist. Part of us wants to love like Juno, scooping up mortal men, toying with t I would have to agree with Susan Cheever that this is the best book about being a woman I have ever read. I seem to be devouring the memoirs of women of a certain age, as they keep me from total panic over my impending birthday. Here's a little nugget I liked: Part of us wants to love like the goddesses-- coldly and capriciously. Part of us owes allegiance to Kali, eating her lover and attaching his skull to her waist. Part of us wants to love like Juno, scooping up mortal men, toying with them, then letting them go, turning them, in parting, into caves for the sea to crash through, great phallic stones, or even, if we are merciful, swine. Part of us wants to be Athena and Diana--who need no lovers, who have intellect and marksmanship instead. Funny, heartbreaking, honest and extremely well-written.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Sim

    I love Erica Jong's Fear of Flying. (one of my all time favorites) This book had a lot of info and a lot going on. At times, it was hard to follow the author's train of thought. I ended up skimming. I do really enjoy her thoughts on mid-life, independence, and not looking for a partner or significant other to fulfill you. Good stuff, just a longish book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    My copy of Jong's first memoir is completely highlighted in pink because so much of what she says echoes my own experience. On page 13 she describes the effect of emotional tyranny in her life, "No complaints. Everyone needs something to shape a complicated character. Tyranny was the forcethat crteated my love of liberty, my identification with the underdog, my passion for the rights of man-and woman." She also says, "We (women) must learn to be whole creatures in order to make women's freedom a My copy of Jong's first memoir is completely highlighted in pink because so much of what she says echoes my own experience. On page 13 she describes the effect of emotional tyranny in her life, "No complaints. Everyone needs something to shape a complicated character. Tyranny was the forcethat crteated my love of liberty, my identification with the underdog, my passion for the rights of man-and woman." She also says, "We (women) must learn to be whole creatures in order to make women's freedom a nateural part of our society. It is up to us to claim that territory. men cannot do it for us. It is not their mountain to climb. We must learn to love and support each other without demanding ideological conformity" The book is also an easy fun read full of interesting stories about coming of age in the feminist culture of the late 60's and early 70"s.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    With any luck, Jong will do Sashaying Toward Seventy. I found in my journal the word "sprezzatura" which means making the difficult look easy, and I know it's from this book. Also: "...past fifty, we learn with surprise and a sense of suicidal absolution, that what we intended and failed, could never have happened." by Robert Lowell ~ "For Sheridan". Cheery, innit?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sharayu Gangurde

    One of the BEST BOOKS written by a feminist! I couldnt put this book down. It is easy reading, and very warm and candid. Erica Jong writes beautifully. All GIRLS must read it. It is that good. (Dont go by the title and classify it as something our mothers or women nearing/over fifty should read.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristi

    Fear of Fifty – A Midlife Memoir is a treasure, a gift to my 50-something-year-old self. Erica Jong told about her 50-year-old self – the struggles, the balancing act, the feelings, the parenting, the men, the adventures, and the poems. Through her words, I gathered insights, advice, stories and encouragement, kind of like peering through the peephole on the door to an even richer mid-life. Fear of Fifty is a gem, a loving guidebook to other women.

  9. 4 out of 5

    patty ramona

    While testing out for the first time adobe ebook downloads via library checkout, I grabbed this one, and now I'm reading it. Downloaded (free) Bluefire reader app, and can now read all adobe ebooks on the ipad. The book itself was appealing in terms of book references, authorly quotes, wee bits of gossip concerning unlikely ones and other tidbits, which brings it up to a 3-star review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nancyann

    I am late coming to this book party seeing that it was written twenty five years ago. Erica is a terrific writer whom I don't always agree with but still enjoy her views. Turning fifty and figuring out how you now fit into a society that values youth is tough for all. Erica managed it with style, grace, and lots of sex. I appreciate her candidness and enjoyed everything I read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I read this book, but I honestly don't remember it well. Unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten most of the Jong books I've read and I'm not sure why. Does anyone have similar problems with authors?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    some good parts but too much ranting on social issues from skewed feminist perspective I am a feminist but Erica is pushing the poor oppressed rich and successful me envelope

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura Durnell

    I bought this book at Women & Kids First during a time in my life I would rather not remember. Meeting her in person for the first time is my only wonderful memory from that epoch. I bought this book at Women & Kids First during a time in my life I would rather not remember. Meeting her in person for the first time is my only wonderful memory from that epoch.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lori Crossley

    Have just fallen in love with Erica Jong!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nicki Conroy

    A lengthy review will come on my blog. I loved this book. So many great points made.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marion Roux

    I enjoyed this book more at the second reading of it. To quote the author about a book, " It had to wait a long time on my shelf for my life to catch up with it." So I made notes of the sections that that impressed me more this time: 'Freedom must be given by example, not by exhortation'. Wishing for freedom for her daughter, she writes, "Freedom is a loose leash, a licence to be different from your mother and still be loved. Freedom is not binding your daughter's feet, nor performing a symbolic I enjoyed this book more at the second reading of it. To quote the author about a book, " It had to wait a long time on my shelf for my life to catch up with it." So I made notes of the sections that that impressed me more this time: 'Freedom must be given by example, not by exhortation'. Wishing for freedom for her daughter, she writes, "Freedom is a loose leash, a licence to be different from your mother and still be loved. Freedom is not binding your daughter's feet, nor performing a symbolic clitoridectomy, not insisting that you daughter share your own limitations. Freedom also means letting your daughter reject you when she needs to and to come back when she needs to. Freedom is unconditional love". "Daughters beat against maternal limitations, demolishing and deconstructing mothers to get free of them. This is necessary to establish their identities in opposition to their mothers. They need to tear mothers down to build edifices to themselves. For them, mothers are building sites!" On friendships she writes, "That is what you love a friend for: the ability to change your angle of vision (' see the funny side/laughter'), bring back your best self when you feel worst, remind you of your strengths when you feel weak. And to speak the truth - but without malice. Loving candour is the secret of friendship." When discussing memory she says, "Memory is the crux of our humanity. Without memory we have no identities". On growing old - " Not celebrity, not talent, not personal charm, not wealth, not wit - nothing saves us from growing old"! Talking about writing she says, "A book is not made of sentences laid end to end, but, if an image helps, of sentences built into arches or domes" She is very clever with words. She is rather scathing on feeling a little ineffective as a mother - "It is useless to blame husbands or children for your own deficiencies. It only delays change. Until you accept responsibility for that, there is no peace." One of her comments that speaks volumes, speaks for itself is and is great to mull over is, "Immortality is your memory in minds that loved yours "The battle for women's rights has not been won" - nearly 25 years later this statement of hersstill holds true! Erica Jong is a straight-talking , no-pulling-punches and wise author with a well-delveloped sense of humour.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jmwt

    I love F O Flying this one not so much ??? it was some recycled FO Flying it was some weird other stories thrown in and A LOT of I am getting older it sucks to not be young pretty and noticed anymore SEEEE MEEEEE NYC I mean - we all know NYC is petty central - and faker central - but DAMN GIRL - I mean I love aging - but I guess my identity is not fully wrapped up in OTHER PEOPLE finding me attractive of f-ckable ..... ultimately at 50 you better find YOURSELF ATTRACTIVE AND F-CKABLE - I just turn I love F O Flying this one not so much ??? it was some recycled FO Flying it was some weird other stories thrown in and A LOT of I am getting older it sucks to not be young pretty and noticed anymore SEEEE MEEEEE NYC I mean - we all know NYC is petty central - and faker central - but DAMN GIRL - I mean I love aging - but I guess my identity is not fully wrapped up in OTHER PEOPLE finding me attractive of f-ckable ..... ultimately at 50 you better find YOURSELF ATTRACTIVE AND F-CKABLE - I just turned 48 so yea ...... incoherent silly and so middle school-ish girl shenanigans gmafb seriously

  18. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I have had this book on my shelf for so many years and I finally read it. It was written 24 years ago and shows it's age.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Krisi Kranz

    Could not get into this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Typical Boomer nonsense with a few moments of real clarity.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Fear of Fifty is a designed as a biography that really serves as a treatise on the state of feminism and the many small victories and mega defeats; it is a way of looking at it through the eyes of a person who liberated many, and yet found herself trapped in many of the myths and chauvinistic traps that keep any real equality from occurring. For the average reader it is a little off-putting that some of the loudest voices of feminism have been people so far removed from the lives of average women Fear of Fifty is a designed as a biography that really serves as a treatise on the state of feminism and the many small victories and mega defeats; it is a way of looking at it through the eyes of a person who liberated many, and yet found herself trapped in many of the myths and chauvinistic traps that keep any real equality from occurring. For the average reader it is a little off-putting that some of the loudest voices of feminism have been people so far removed from the lives of average women, but then who else would have had the connections or the life style luxury to express any opinions what so ever. What saved this book was the final realization that it was really the voices of black women writers that finally allowed Jong to see that there existed ways to look at feminism from a different perspective. It is a generational struggle for women to be taken seriously, a dialog the average woman has been excluded from in face of the militant and the famous wealthy spokespeople: both of them whom have had choices and opportunities that are not available to others. There is something positive if the things that have occurred since this book was written so manybe there is some light along the edges.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vix

    First off, I love Erica Jong and I love Fear of Flying which is the ultimate book to read for young chicas. This is about Erica as a person, her difficulty navigating the roles of woman and artist, and her confidence/confusion as she approaches 50. What I love though is that through her recapping her past you get all these little insights and understanding of what it is to be a woman in the complicated world we live in. It's like sitting at the kitchen table with your mom and your old aunts and lis First off, I love Erica Jong and I love Fear of Flying which is the ultimate book to read for young chicas. This is about Erica as a person, her difficulty navigating the roles of woman and artist, and her confidence/confusion as she approaches 50. What I love though is that through her recapping her past you get all these little insights and understanding of what it is to be a woman in the complicated world we live in. It's like sitting at the kitchen table with your mom and your old aunts and listening to them rehash the past complete with the good old days and when times were hard. Really insightful for people who are writers or artists trying to figure out how to handle their passion for their craft with regular everyday living and relationships and also for women trying to figure out whats up with gender roles and how to come to terms with the generation before them who lived in a whole different world.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Fear of Flying author Erica Jong's autobiography, (written in 1994 when she was fifty) was another thrift store find for me. Her books are always a good read, and I enjoyed her auto-biography. I've not read all her novels, but now that I remember what a good writer she is, with such a clear voice on women and their lives, I plan to re-read (and read for the first time) her novels. I know that at one time I owned several of her books. But, where are they? Guess they were given away long ago.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    I read Fear of Flying when it came out, so can't remember it save for the 'zipless fuck' phrase and that I enjoyed it, a breath of fresh air. So I was intrigued by the 'Fear of Fifty' title. It turned our to be a a memoir of sorts from Jong, who sees herself as a writer and feminist, and has - from my perspective - a more traditionally 'masculine' attitude towards sex and relationships. Found it interesting and thought-provoking, but often purposefully vague.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Mcclary

    Erica Jong has lived a fast and hard life, much of which she brings on herself. She is passionate, flamboyant and reminds me of Joan Rivers. However, through all her trials, challenges and bizarre situations she writes and sometimes she writes well. She gives an interesting perspective to the life of a writer, some I agree with and some not, but isn't that they way it goes with much of life?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I loved Erica Jong 20 years ago but I found this a bit hard to get into, it did improve as it went on and generally is a good read, but I guess when I was a 20yo and reading Fear of Flying, no other Erica Jong book could feel that fabulous

  27. 4 out of 5

    بثينة الدسوقي

    I read a small part of this book translated to Arabic, It touched me a lot, thought it's me who was writing this as it resembles my own style! I should have a copy in English just to feel the full joy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gwen Veazey

    It was really fun to read this book immediately after reading Fear of Flying, and get the story behind the story. A rich and leisurely autobiography by a gifted writer dedicated to her work. She was born in 1942, and this was published in 1994.

  29. 5 out of 5

    yengyeng

    hmm. maybe i should re-read this when i'm 50.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Very thought-provoking.

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