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Inventing Memory: A Novel of Mothers and Daughters Paperback – August 2, 2007
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From Library Journal
In Jong's newest work, four generations of talented, beautiful Jewish women?Sarah, Salome, Sally, and Sara?fill ten decades with tragic, action-packed lives shaped by the challenges of Jewish history and the misery created by the deeply flawed men they choose. In the early 1900s, Sarah flees a deadly pogrom in Russia and paints her way to fame and fortune in America. Sarah's daughter, Salome, sleeps and writes her way through literary Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. Salome's daughter, Sally, a tormented product of the Sixties, drowns her soul in a numbing mess of drugs, men, and alcohol while skyrocketing to the top of the music charts. In the new millennium, Sally's child, Sara, with her own daughter in tow, leaves a failing marriage and spurns the love of the only wholly decent man in this tale to unravel the secrets of Judaism and feminism that molded her famous relatives. Jong is a gifted writer who tells a captivating story, but one does have to question her reluctance to part with her now-tired insistence on peppering her novels with scenes of gratuitous vulgarity. It worked in Fear of Flying, but nearly a quarter of a century later, it would have been nice to be able to recommend this title to a broader audience.
-?Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., Mich.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Jong should stick to nonfiction. Her last book, Fear of Fifty (1994), was a frank and well-constructed memoir. Her new novel evinces none of the smarts or style she is capable of, in fact, this multigenerational family saga spanning the entire twentieth century is a maddening mishmash of trivialized history and cliched fantasy. And that's a shame, because several of Jong's characters, Jewish women who exemplify chutzpah and creativity, are engaging and thoroughly enjoyable, particularly the indomitable Sarah who escapes the pogroms of Russia, makes her way alone to America at the tender age of 15, and becomes a successful portrait painter. If Jong had told Sarah's story, and the story of her flapper-writer daughter Salome, and her musician daughter Sally, and her scholarly daughter Sara, in a lucid and dramatic manner, this would have been a fine work of pop fiction. Instead, Jong chose to connect her narrative to every watershed event of the last 100 years, dragging in real people such as Edith Wharton and Gertrude Stein for silly cameos, imitating (badly) D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller, and using (clumsily) such devices as letters, journals entries, and even a fake interview to stand in for solid, straight-ahead writing. There are some sunny moments when Jong captures the atmosphere of certain times and places, quotes clever Yiddish proverbs, or actually offers some insights into love and the bond between mothers and daughters, but by trying to do too much, she has done too little. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Why, oh, why then, can't this woman write another novel I can bear to get through? I can't say I've tried them all (maybe Fear of 50, though not a novel, holds the most promise), but How to Save Your Own Life, for example, and now Inventing Memory, drive me to distraction with their lovingly self-indulgent descriptions of the main Jong character that lacks any of the funny self-deprecating description of FoFlying. The soft-core prose without the bite. Narrative sometimes get going but is quickly knocked off its wheels by the occasionally trenchant but mostly excessive Yiddish proverbs that litter every few paragraphs. A cheesy mess.
Maybe my expectations are just too high, as I still call Flying one of my all time favorite books -- not just because it's fun, but because it offered such dead-on descriptions of questions a woman asks herself as she's coming into her own, plagued alternately by belief in her own brilliance and star power and the fear of failing, as well as wrestling with the idea of where love/men should figure into one's life.
Gone and by the wind-grieved Erica, come back again.
It seems as if Erica Jong is, yet again, trying to say the same old things in the same old way. Maybe the "same old things" part isn't what's wrong: the "same old way" part definitely is. She's an intelligent writer, seems like an intelligent & very lively person (especially from Fear of Fifty, even though that too, was repetitive) so why can't she start writing something different? I mean, completely different, not just "changing the names of the main characters" different...
This story takes you to the turn of the last century to the early years of the twenty-first century.
You discover the wonders and excitement of Paris with the glow and hardship of America. Filled with love, life, and a bit of lust, these strong women result from a strong stock.
You will rejoice in taking the passage on learning about the past only to unlock the secrets of the present.