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At 39, Isadora Wing is rich, famous, a mother, recently separated, and still ""possessed of a demoniacal sexuality""--which may have seemed like hot stuff back in the early 1970s (Fear of Flying) but now reads more like a garish case of arrested development. ""She wanted her heart never to get involved in fucking again--merely her cunt. . . ."" She drives around Connecticut, cabs around Manhattan, sleeping with a rabbi, a Nobel Laureate, a disc jockey (""the Count of Cunnilingus""), and many others. She has a somewhat more emotional affair with old high-school flame Kevin--but assorted small children interfere. (""She learned that not only is the Prince not coming--but often he can't even get it up."") She broods over her inner conflict between man-craziness and feminism, seeking some balance between ""self-reliance and endless love."" She contemplates her ""midcareer mind-fart,"" gets by on Valium and dope, celebrates the ""cosmic juice of her being"" and the brilliance of her latest novel (an apparent stand-in for Jong's tedious Fanny). And she heaps abuse on her estranged husband Josh--""a big, overgrown, balding child. . . this man who had tried to kill her in her motherhood, kill her in her art, kill her in her womanhood."" (The real obscenity in this novel isn't Jong's uninspired pornography but her nakedly autobiographical attacks on ex-husband Jonathan Fast and his family: an ugly private quarrel totally untransformed by literary craft, let alone art.) Eventually, however, Isadora comes out of her turning-40 funk--thanks to a violently passionate affair with young WASP-y actor Bean, a sweet fellow with his clothes on but a wild animal in bed. And, after a trip to Russia, there's a sex-reunion with Bean in Venice. . . and a turgid fadeout: ""She would give herself permission to love Bean for as long as it lasted. She would give love itself permission to last. If she wanted it badly enough and Bean wanted it badly enough, it would last. If not, not."" (Most readers will give it about six months--and shudder for the fate of Isadora's little daughter Mandy.) Throughout, in fact, Jong's prose is lazily verbose, riddled with rhetoric and psychobabble. The tone, virtually devoid of humor, is an uncommonly off-putting blend of self-pity and self-aggrandizement--with the sort of extravagant defensiveness that gives genuine feminism a bad name. (""All our accomplishment buys us in the love department is threatened men, soft cocks, abandonment."") Still, there'll be an audience--for the roman à clef gossip, for the Isadora/Erica celebrity-mongering, for the porn with a literary veneer.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1984
ISBN: 1585425001
Publisher: New American Library