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With her characteristic wit and her refreshing refusal to bow down before political correctness, Erica Jong tackles these and other issues. She also celebrates Nabokov's Lolita and relates it to the history of censorship; analyzes Anaïs Nin's importance to contemporary writers; captures the seductive charm of Italy, her second home; and honors the necessity for poetry in our lives. What Do Women Want? is at once an informal memoir and a book of inspiration for all women and the men in their lives.
What Do Women Want? is both funny and serious, full of Jong's delight in language and her passion for ideas. It grapples with the writers she loves and the hypocrisy she hates, and reveals her own original, quirky take on the world we live in.
|Preface: What Do Women Want?|
|Ch. 1||My Mother, My Daughter, and Me||3|
|Ch. 2||Crust Lady: The Vicissitudes of Being Hillary Rodham Clinton||11|
|Ch. 3||Monster Mommies||29|
|Ch. 4||Why I Want to Be a Witch||33|
|Ch. 5||Blood and Guts: A Woman Writer in the Late Twentieth Century||41|
|Ch. 6||Jane Eyre's Unbroken Will||49|
|Ch. 7||Princess as Icon||55|
|Ch. 8||Face-off at the Millennium||61|
|Ch. 9||Lolita Turns Thirty||67|
|Ch. 10||Deliberate Lewdness and the Creative Imagination: Should We Censor Pornography?||85|
|Ch. 11||Incest and Anais Nin||101|
|Ch. 12||Good-bye to Henry-San||115|
|Ch. 13||Creativity Versus Maternity||121|
|Ch. 14||The Perfect Man||129|
|Ch. 15||Quest for Stiffness||139|
|Ch. 16||What Is Sex Appeal?||145|
|Ch. 17||The President's Penis||149|
|Pt. 3||Bread & Roses|
|Ch. 18||My Italy||158|
|Ch. 19||Venice, in Particular||165|
|Ch. 20||Writing for Love||177|
|Ch. 22||Yeats's Glade and Basho's Bee: The Impossibility of Doing Without Poetry||189|
|Ch. 23||Books and Houses||193|
|Ch. 24||Coming Home to Connecticut||199|
Dr. Shirley P. Glass is a licensed psychologist and a certified marriage and family therapist, and the relationship expert for Electra. She answers questions from members weekly on sexual and relationship problems and chats with AOL members on a bimonthly basis.
Erica Jong: Great question. I don't believe we should censor language or ideas or content. I think sooner or later the best will float to the top and the garbage will sink.
Erica Jong: Women have more choices. Women are also more exhausted. Sometimes we have won the right to be eternally exhausted. In terms of being better off, we are, in terms of better opportunities. We have many more practical problems: day care, sharing equally the household chores, et cetera.
Erica Jong: I think it's true that mothers are always blamed. And I think it's not helpful to women to always blame them for everything that goes wrong with children and/or families. We have to create new paradigms where we support mothers instead of attacking them. I believe that mothering is the hardest job I've ever had in my life -- writing books included!
Erica Jong: I think I was shocked when Diana first came on the scene to discover how many people were charmed by the idea of the prince on the white horse. I thought we had gotten over that. I thought we knew that marrying a prince was not the solution to women's problems. Obviously the dream of being rescued dies hard! And I think Diana fulfilled a fantasy for a lot of people. Then she showed us that the fantasy is, in a way, a delusion.
Erica Jong: [laughs] I think probably the most valuable thing I can do for younger women is to inspire courage.
Erica Jong: Here is our next audience question.
Erica Jong: I think we have to encourage teachers to be more courageous, and have to be aware that parents' groups very often threaten teachers with dismissal and closely monitor the books they assign. Sometimes it's not the fault of the teachers, who are under pressure from military parents who don't understand the censorship issues (militant parents, not military parents).
Erica Jong: First, to go back one question. You have said that TV and the Internet isn't as influential as parents fear -- that parents have the greatest influence. However, that's not really true. Research evidence indicates that peer groups and social context are significant. I think peer groups become significant to teenagers. But I think the values are formed when they're younger by their parents. When they're teenagers, the pressure is certainly there, but they're already formed as people. As for communication...
Erica Jong: Women communicate in terms of feeling. Men communicate in terms of fact. The most important thing a woman can do is help the man she's involved with to unburden his feelings. Once that's possible, there's nothing you can't achieve.
Erica Jong: Men are afraid of women's emotionality; it makes them feel out of control.
Erica Jong: Yes! [laughs] To add to that: Open marriage is a great idea, but it never works! People are jealous. Trust is so necessary in a marriage.
Erica Jong: I would have been terrified of him had I met him 20 years ago. He's entirely too sweet and kind. At that point in my life, I liked the bad boys. I had to become mature enough to love a man who was good to me. [laughs]
Erica Jong: I have been thinking about it lately. And actually, my first unpublished novel was written from a man's point of view.
Erica Jong: I don't think there is one time frame for everybody. Forgiveness is really hard for people. But I do think it's possible. Dr. Glass, do you have a comment on that?
Erica Jong: A lot has to happen before healing. The story of the affair has to be told to reestablish openness. The vulnerabilities for infidelity have to be understood, and commitment has to be defined and agreed upon.
Erica Jong: That's so true, Dr. Glass!
Erica Jong: I see Hillary as being the wife of the alcoholic, but married to a sexoholic. When the husband has a slip, the wife isn't surprised. She may wish it hadn't happened; but on some levels she knows her "customer" and knows what he's capable of. I don't think she's surprised by Monica Lewinsky. Each time this happens, she becomes more powerful in the marriage. I don't see her as a victim.
Erica Jong: Yes, it is typical behavior, but I think she has made a bargain, and it has to do with pillow power. She recognized that a woman could not be a president of the U.S. in this time in history and is president by proxy. She has paid a very, very high price.
Erica Jong: I see that as being a perfect description of Bill Clinton, Dr. Glass. So true.
Erica Jong: I admire Hillary tremendously. I think she's really changed the face of U.S. politics. She's the first public woman who has not hidden her brain, has been outspoken about children's rights and health care. Dr. Glass, we agree on that. Clinton has spent his whole life preparing for the presidency. Amazing how at the height of his popularity he does something so self-destructive. It's the behavior of a guilt-ridden man. He is the adult child of an alcoholic, his mother was battered, and I think we're seeing this coming out. I wish he had apologized for his behavior back in January and not tried to cover it up.
Erica Jong: Good question. Yes, it's true for most smart women. They can wind up with abusive men who are sexy but not there when the women need them. I've seen that pattern again and again. Maybe we're seeing that with the Clintons!
Erica Jong: Very true. That is exactly the way I see the Clinton marriage. Very astute comment.
Erica Jong: Me, too! I am working on a project to compile a reading list of the 100 best women's novels in the English language published between 1900 and 2000. Please submit your favorite books so I don't miss it. My web site address is www.ericajong.com. Should be fun to put together! Thanks so much for having me, Dr. Glass. It's been great talking with you!
Erica Jong: Thanks again. This has been great fun!
Posted April 24, 2010
As always, Jong writes with poignance, grace, humor, and truth. She examines womanhood in various essays in the context of a patriarchal world and offers a sharp focus on society's ego and the role of the woman. As one of the pioneers of modern, feminist writing, she explores the catch-22 of being a woman - and moreover, a woman writer - and of expressing female sexuality. Interesting, beautiful collection of essays!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.