Erica Jong is one of those iconic writers whose work has literally changed the world. Her most famous book, Fear of Flying, has sold 20 million copies worldwide. So I jumped at the chance to cover her reading and talk with Susan Orlean (author of The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession). It was put on by Live Talks Los Angeles, a wonderful series that brings noteworthy individuals to our area in very well-produced talks.
Erica is very striking in person, with a gorgeous mop of thick blonde hair, still attractive at middle age, and extremely kind and personable. She’s also quite funny, and said that when her assistant was typing up the first draft of Fear of Flying, she could her hear her assistant laughing hysterically while she was working on typing it up in the next room.
Erica said she was “terrified” working on and publishing Fear of Flying, she was afraid of the “fear of self-exposure” that such close to the bone, honest writing brings up. But nevertheless, she did it, and the world and relations between men and women have never been the same since.
She talked about feminism, and how with the ‘second wave’ people have become aware of women’s issues, but there is still a great need to give women equal pay for equal work, and provide opportunities at all levels for women in the working world, and to educate women all over the world. She mentioned that it was amazing to her that all over the world, wherever women had read her book, it was clear to her that women everywhere all want the same things. They want to get an education. They want freedom to choose what happens to their bodies, and they want safety for themselves and their children. “We have raised consciousness, but we have not yet achieved quality. We need to.”
It was a pleasure meeting and hearing this dynamic and influential woman read and discuss her life and work. The 40th Anniversary edition of her novel Fear of Flying is now available for purchase everywhere. The audience eagerly lined up in a huge queue afterwards to buy and meet this amazing woman.
The talk was organized by the genial Ted Habte-Gabr, producer of Live Talks Los Angeles, a remarkable series of talks in our area. For more information about Live Talks LA, visit livetalksla.org; for more information about Ms. Jong, visit her writer’s website at ericajong.com.