Erica Jong in Westport: 'Real Sex' will be the topic
By Karen Kovacs Dydzuhn
When best-selling author Erica Jong releases a new novel, her loyal readers expect to find plenty of steamy sex. Steamy ... and, of course, fictional.
Jong's newest release has plenty of sex, too, but the book is non-fiction -- a collection of essays about sex by women writers she admires.
And what she discovered compiling the anthology surprised Jong, who blazed a trail for post-1960s women to express their sexuality in ways that may have made a few of their prim mothers faint.
"Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex" is a collection of essays by 28 contemporary writers. And Jong, 69, was surprised by the way younger and older writers approached the topic.
Defying conventional wisdom, the young writers -- including Jong's daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, 32 -- seem to be "sick of sexual freedom that their mothers fought for and flaunted," Erica Jong said.
Her daughter's essay is titled "They Had Sex So We Didn't Have To."
"What I discovered was surprising, Jong said in a recent telephone interview with the Westport News. "There seems to be that longing to return to the pre-'70s era."
Jong will be in Westport on Friday, June 17, for a benefit garden party and book signing from noon to 2 p.m. at the home of Elise Meyer. Proceeds will support the Westport Public Library's summer reading program for children, teens and adults. The $75 ticket includes a light lunch and signed copy of "Sugar in My Bowl."
Jong said her daughter's essay is indicative of how some daughters rebel against their mothers' liberated lifestyles and laid-back attitudes about sex.
"Molly describes being in sex ed class at her school and being sent to the drug store to buy condoms," Jong explains. "They then make the girls practice putting condoms on bananas."
As someone who grew up in the 1970s, author Julie Klam wrote about how embarrassing it was to have parents who were nudists.
"When Erica approached me about writing an essay for this book, I doubled over with laughter because, like a 4th grader, when someones says `sex' out loud, I laugh," Klam wrote in a short biography on the anthology's website -- www.sugarinmybowl.com .
Jong's book title, "Sugar in My Bowl," is borrowed from a raunchy song of the same name, recorded in 1931 by legendary jazz singer Bessie Smith.
"Fear of Flying," Jong's first novel, candidly addressed female sexuality and introduced readers to a protagonist who would be featured in several ensuing books.
Since then, Jong has written numerous essays, poetry and novels whose themes are rooted in issues of feminism. Deciding that she wanted to provide an honest update about sex from the viewpoint of different women spanning several generations, Jong solicited essays from both seasoned and emerging writers.
Her offers were met with some trepidation. Jong said many writers were concerned about what their families and friends would think of their essays.
"I found myself telling them, `It's really OK. You don't have to get permission from your husbands or your children,'" Jong said.
"Worst Sex" by New York Times columnist Gail Collins and "Going All The Way" by Liz Smith are two of the anthology's essays. Other essaysists include Eve Ensler, Naomi Wolf, Susie Bright, Daphne Merkin, Fay Weldon, Anne Roiphe and Jennifer Weiner.
The book concludes with Jong's essay, "Kiss."
In choosing writers for the anthology, Jong said she reached out to those whose work she loves.
Jong has maintained a home in Weston for 35 years and said she enjoys hosting events that benefit the Westport Public Library. "I believe in libraries, and I always try to create an event around the release of one of my books that could help to support the Westport Library" she said.
Although she also maintains a residence in Manhattan with her husband, lawyer Ken Burrows, and her poodle, Jong said she enjoys coming to Connecticut on weekends and for the summer.
"I'm always around," Jong said. "I generally come up to Weston to write. I find it very calming."
"Sugar in My Bowl" will be published June 14. Tickets to the Jong event cost $75. To register, go here: http://gardenlunch.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact the Westport Public Library at 203-291-4800.