Bread, Roses, Sex, Power
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A mixed bag of essays, some new, some warmed over, that doesn’t answer the question, but offers some occasionally amusing, even provocative food for thought. Jong (Inventing Memory, 1997, etc.), unfortunately, has not lost her taste for four-letter words or her conviction that readers want to hear one more time about her four marriages, her brief (nonsexual) relationship with Henry Miller, and her romance with Italy. All of these are included in this medley, subdivided into sections on, yes, power, sex, and bread and roses. The segment on power includes a chapter on Hillary Clinton, described as a “cut-and-paste” personality, on Princess Diana (“the heroine of a public soap opera”), reflections on the daisy-chain relationships of mothers and daughters, and a contemplation of her facelift. The sex section offers a worshipful view of Anaãs Nin and a substantive look at Nabokov’s Lolita; written in 1988, the latter piece is updated here with a report on the controversial new film version of the novel. There’s an intriguing chapter on “Creativity versus Maternity,” attacking the idea that gestating a baby is anything but a passive act (however rewarding it may be). And side by side with these at least somewhat challenging views is a chapter on “The President’s Penis” that concludes, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. ‘’ That banal thought is relieved by a funny piece on Viagra (“sounds a lot to me like a plant food”). The last group of chapters has to do with work (bread) and home (roses). One commentary tells us tritely that writing is hard work and a “sacred calling,” but another evocatively equates poetry with lust. Discussing houses, she calls on Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, and Vladimir Nabokov to support her view of house as womb. Well read, an excellent stylist, and a sometimes original thinker, Jong, in this book as in others, frequently can’t seem to get out of her own way to get to the heart of the matter. (TV satellite tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-018376-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1998


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