Joni Evans chats with the feminist novelist, poet, and essayist about her latest book: an anthology that explores — what else? — sex
Your seminal novel “Fear of Flying” has sold 20 million copies to date, and you’ve written more than 20 books since then. Your new book, “Sugar In My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex” is your first anthology. What made you decide to try this format? Did you enjoy being the editor for a change?
I thought editing was very satisfying. I really enjoyed giving writers the courage to dig deeper and be more honest. With an anthology, you never know what you are really going to get in the end. I was pleased at the variety in the book. I was particularly happy that Karen Abbott decided to write about a taboo subject – passion among older people. So we have a great range – from childhood sexuality to elder sex.
There is a wide spectrum of writers in this book — all ages, experiences, and orientations. How did you decide whom to include?
With an anthology you need luck and I got lucky. So many of the writers I contacted were inspired to contribute.
Both you and your daughter, the writer Molly Jong-Fast, contributed stories to this collection. They are startlingly different takes on sexuality. Were you aware of Molly’s reactions to your …. bohemian way of life?
Molly is a satirist, so of course she’s going to send up her family first. The fact that she has the moxie and the security to do that makes me feel that I must have been an okay mom.
How have sexual attitudes evolved since the Seventies? Do you think we’re more liberated since the Pill and books like “Fear of Flying” encouraged a new generation of women to embrace their sexuality?
I think that women today take sexuality more for granted than we did in my generation. My daughter’s generation doesn’t have the feeling of breaking taboos. The taboos were broken. Now they have to figure out what they really want and maybe that’s even harder.
Anais Nin once told you that “Women who write about sex are never taken seriously as writers.” Do you think this still holds true?
Yes, women writers are never taken as seriously as male writers. Even Jane Austen comes from criticism from someone like V.S. Naipaul. Male writers never tire of criticizing women writers. Will it ever end?
What contemporary male authors do you think write most compellingly about sex?
Philip Roth, of course, and the late John Updike. Certainly D.H. Lawrence bears rereading. He can be an amazing writer.
Anything else you’d like to share with the wOw community?
I think it’s time for us to take seriously the way women’s rights are slipping away. There’s an attack on birth control in many state legislatures. I think we have to address the question of why women’s rights are always so fragile.
Erica Jong–novelist, poet, and essayist–has consistently used her craft to help provide women with a powerful and rational voice in forging a feminist consciousness. She has published 21 books, including eight novels, seven volumes of poetry, six books of nonfiction and numerous articles in magazines and newspapers such as The New York Times, The Sunday Times of London, Elle, Vogue, The New York Times Book Review and The Wall Street Journal. Her new anthology is Sugar in my Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex.