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Opening on her fiftieth birthday, Jong's midlife memoir reads like fast-paced fiction as it flashes back and forth in time to tell at last the truths at the heart of her novels. Poet, novelist, essayist, Jong has forged one of the most visible and volatile careers in American letters, and as a charter member of what she calls the "whiplash generation, " she has had a front seat on the roller coaster American women have been riding for the past decades. Raised to be Doris Day, growing up wanting to be Gloria Steinem, now rearing daughters in the age of Princess Di and Madonna, today's women have had their expectations raised and dashed and raised and dashed again, as they've watched themselves go in and out of style like hemlines. Now, as she and her contemporaries look for answers to the second half of their lives, Jong offers powerful, provocative insights into sex, marriage and aging; feminism -- past, present and future; the writing life; motherhood and family; identity and love, loyalty and loss, drawn through the brilliant prism of her own experience.
In chapters such as "Fear of Fifty, " "The Mad Lesbian in the Attic, " "How I Got to Be the Second Sex, " "How I Got to Be Jewish, " "Fear of Fame, " "Seducing the Muse, " "Dona Juana Gets Smart, "Becoming Venetian" and "How to Get Married, " Erica Jong takes readers on an impassioned, outrageous, irreverent tour de force through the sea changes that have defined a generation. Fromtechnical virginity to the sexual revolution to the AIDS pandemic; from "The Feminine Mystique" to "political correctness"; from monogamy to open marriage and back again; from stay-at-home moms to moms who have won the right to be eternally exhausted; from sexual secrecy to sexual openness -- Jong proves yet again her unique ability to tap into the inner lives of women and the issues that matter most to them.
"Fear of Fifty" is an intoxicating, riveting read, free-wheeling and fun, warm, tough and full of wisdom. Sure to be embraced by women everywhere, it is destined, like its classic predecessor "Fear of Flying," to become required reading for a generation on the threshold of a new revolution.
"Fear of Fifty" is a funny, touching, unflinchingly honest cri de coeur about the joy and pain of being a fully sentient woman in the last half of the 20th century. Elegant and eloquent, this moving midlife meditation chronicles the daunting feat of juggling all at once the roles of wife, mother and lover; daughter, sister and friend; writer, feminist and Jew. Many women who came of age in the '60s and '70s will recognize Jong's struggles, contradictions, and hard-won conclusions as their own. -- Lisa Alther, author of "Kinflicks"
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