Erica Jong opens her autobiography, FEAR OF FIFTY, with sensitive reminiscences of her father, and she ends with tear-evoking memories of her mother. What lies in between will have many readers agreeing vehemently, laughing, looking up poems and chapters from her published works, and remembering their own growing up adventures.
One might wonder why anyone would care about Erica Jong’s life. She shares her insights gained on the analyst’s couch, as well as revealing in a witty and vivid manner the confusions, competition, and determination she needed to develop as a poet and writer coming of age during the exuberant and rebellious 1960’s.
At times, Jong whines about critics who are not totally favorable to her works. This seems to be a vulnerable facade protecting her from all criticism. It is interesting to note that a competent, humorous and most successful author/poet (in most of her works) should still carry feelings of fear and guilt. Her Jewishness certainly comes into play here and in many of her literary and social observations throughout the book.
FEAR OF FIFTY could be looked at favorably as an encapsulation of modern women writers. Jong is bright, educated, and comfortable with literary allusions to a myriad of writers. Her quotations at the head of each chapter and the allusions throughout the book enhance the delight for readers whoare pleased at recognizing many of the mentioned authors.
FEAR OF FIFTY will satisfy men and women alike. Jong’s descriptions of both Europe and the United States from the 1950’s to the 1990’s parallel her own journey to the age of fifty, leaving much of the turbulence behind. There is definitely something to be said for maturity. The memoir reads smoothly, contains vivid humor, touches on the pathos and fear of young mothers, and helps to resolve the conflicts many adults feel toward their parents.