Bookmarks Issue: 
Erica Jong

Writing for My Life

A-SeducingTheDemonWhat began as a how-to guide for writers morphed into recollections of a writer’s life. Jong recounts, in four essays only marginally less titillating than her groundbreaking (and infamous, in some circles) first novel, Fear of Flying (1973), her loves and losses: an affair with Martha Stewart’s husband that set off a long-running feud between the two women; an analysis of the lives and work of women writers Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Virginia Woolf, all of whom committed suicide; her own battles with alcoholism and depression; and a litany of failed relationships. Jong is unapologetic about her strong stances on politics, sexual freedom, and America’s cultural and social shortcomings.
Tarcher/Penguin. 279 pages. $22.95. ISBN: 1585424447

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Political, irreverent, risqué, and wonderfully unrepentant. … Like the delight my great-grandmother (and probably Jong’s) felt splashing her arms in the summer heat with the cool water of the Coney Island surf, reading Seducing the Demon is mechaye, a pleasure." Diana Wagman

Rocky Mountain News 3 of 5 Stars
"There’s … a certain level of superficiality to the book—kind of like the chick lit that Jong so wholeheartedly applauds. … Yet, for Jong, writing this book—like all her others—was a form of therapy." Karen Algeo Krizman

Washington Post 2.5 of 5 Stars
"In Seducing the Demon [Jong] talks about what writing has meant in her own life—what she has tried to do throughout her long career: speak her own truth, no matter the consequences. … But never once does she address the question of the embarrassment her explicit, autobiographical, sexual writings must have caused her own family, her husbands, even her friends." Carolyn See

NY Times Book Review 1 of 5 Stars
"An honest accounting of a life lies half-smothered in these pages: a true fable of a writer whom the gods first made great with early success, and then tormented with the distractions of celebrity, failed marriages, alcoholism, depression and the near-loss of a beloved daughter to addiction." Ron Powers

Chicago Sun-Times 0.5 of 5 Stars
"There’s a fine but distinct line between the earthy energy that drove Fear of Flying and the non-sequitur-laden oddball stories that make up Seducing the Demon. … [W]hat she ends up doing is giving us the same feeling we get when we see a car wreck—you don’t want to see the carnage, but you can’t seem to look away." Debra Bruno

Critical Summary

Jong, who has never managed to repeat the success of Fear of Flying, which she penned at the age of 31, offers a memoir whose original intention—to give advice to aspiring writers—is lost in a haze of largely unconnected and, according to many critics, gratuitous anecdotes. Though Jong has written 19 other books, the spirit of Isadora Wing, Fear of Flying’s heroine, haunts her at every turn. As a result, Seducing the Demon feels derivative. Some critics applaud Jong for remaining steadfastly honest in her analysis of her own personal life and offering her thoughts on writing. Others conclude that, her debt to Isadora Wing paid in full, Jong might want to tilt at new windmills.