Fear of Flying is the story of a woman’s search for herself. On the surface it takes place during and after a psychoanalytic convention in Vienna, Austria, but since it is a record of the meanderings of Isadora’s mind, readers are led back and forth in her life, to and through her childhood, her first marriage and its breakup, and her relationships between her two marriages.
The story begins on the airplane to Vienna, where Isadora is accompanying her husband to the conference. The conference itself is to be a welcoming-home of psychoanalysis to the city from which Sigmund Freud fled before the Nazis in 1938. Isadora herself has a responsibility, since she has been assigned by a magazine called Voyeur to write an article on the conference. However, for all intents and purposes she is the traditional wife, going along for the ride.
The ride is the first problem. The book’s title explains it: Isadora has a phobia about flying. Nevertheless, she grits her teeth and flies, concentrating mentally in her belief that she is in this way helping keep the plane aloft. In the same way, she handles her other fear of flying as well, flying being a metaphor for taking off and taking charge of her own life. Terrified, she takes off anyway on whatever adventures present themselves, trying to learn thereby who she is and what she is after.
A large part of Isadora’s musings and wonderings are sexual. She fantasizes about faceless, anonymous sexual encounters with strangers, and the book is extremely graphic, both in language and content, as she describes her imaginary, and later real, adventures in detail. No sooner do Isadora and Bennett arrive at the conference than she meets the man who will be the focus of her sexual thoughts and actions, another analyst named Adrian Goodlove. The two are instantly attracted to each other, and the rest of the...
(The entire section is 774 words.)