A zesty, savvy, freewheeling memoir of the writing life, portions of which first appeared in the New York Times Book Review and The Writer magazine.
Readers expecting gutsy writing from the author of Fear of Flying (1973) will not be disappointed. Jong vows to tell the truth about herself: her mistakes, her regrets, her divorces, her lawsuits. As she explains it, even the most uncomfortable things she did, she did knowing that she would write about them. She is candid about her addiction to alcohol and her rehab efforts, the time she passed out next to Robert Redford at a dinner party, her night in a Beverly Hills jail for drunk driving and, of course, her sexual encounters. “I kill my enemies with words,” she writes, and her rebuttal of Martha Stewart’s claim that Jong ruined her marriage is a demonstration of that skill. Her take on Hollywood and the perils of being a novice in the business of turning a novel into a movie could be a book all by itself. As it is, it’s a trenchant profile of the late producer Julia Phillips. Her descriptive powers come to the fore in her account of living, loving and working in Venice. From time to time, Jong turns to the art of writing, describing her own character-driven approach to the novel; her techniques for summoning up the muse (or in her case, “seducing the demon” of creativity); and the importance of writing the truth. She also pays tribute to the women poets who influenced her generation, especially Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, who spoke “straight from the female gut.” Name-dropping abounds, but not offensively so; it’s all part of creating a picture of the world into which Jong was propelled by early fame. Brief stories about her parents’ lives suggest another book waiting to be written.
If leaving the reader wanting more is the mark of success, then Jong succeeds.