Vanessa V. Friedman
August 05, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir

Current Status
In Season
Erica Jong
Memoir, Biography

We gave it a B-

Some mothers and daughters overidentify with each other. Erica Jong overidentifies with her mother. Erica Jong has finally realized this, and in Fear of Fifty: a Midlife Memoir, her first (admitted) autobiography, that is what Erica Jong spends 325 pages telling us. That’s not all she tells us, of course, but it’s pretty much the Big Point. Another, Almost-As-Big Point is, ”Love mattered. Instant orgasm did not.” That should tip you off that the usual racy, Jongian, I-was-full-of-juices-like-a-raw-red-steak scenes will, for once, not take up too much space. Aside from one chapter, it seems the Zipless One has been zipped up — and by her own hand. Jong has taken her own experience and decided it is exemplary of her generation’s experience, and thus can pretend that by discussing herself she is really discussing the female condition. And sometimes she’s right. But a lot of times she’s not, which is the true failure here. It’s not so bad that Jong would have the pretensions, or guts, to write a memoir when she was 50. She’s a smart, interesting woman, after all. It’s that she doesn’t, ultimately, have the guts to limit herself to herself. Jong hides behind her gender, and she ends up pontificating when she should have been simply describing. It is one of the first rules of creative writing: Show, don’t tell. B-

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