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Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life Paperback – March 15, 2007
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
In four discursive essays and an introduction, Jong (Fear of Flying; Any Woman's Blues) ruminates on the elements of her writer's life. Most notable is sexuality: pursuit of the muse has often meant pursuit of a demon lover, a man utterly wrong for her. She walks away from Ted Hughes in the 1970s, but not from many other wrong men. Jong has had four husbands, one child and 20 books in the past four decades. Now in her 60s, she's well-read, well-traveled, therapized, happily married and sexually satisfied. Her memoir in vignettes asserts that without writing, Jong would go crazy, drink well beyond the excesses of her past and be miserable. Writing has propelled her forward into a fulfilled life. There is a fine section on women writers who pursued death (Plath, Sexton, Woolf); Jong explains why she refused to be one of them. These chatty, gossipy essays are just serious enough to count as literary. Jong, however, shrugs off the immense economic privilege that allowed her to write and travel from adolescence and meet famous people who influenced her writing early. She also never explains how she writes. Engaging and amusing, this work is less substantive than it could or should be. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Jong, who has never managed to repeat the success of Fear of Flying, which she penned at the age of 31, offers a memoir whose original intentionto give advice to aspiring writersis lost in a haze of largely unconnected and, according to many critics, gratuitous anecdotes. Though Jong has written 19 other books, the spirit of Isadora Wing, Fear of Flying's heroine, haunts her at every turn. As a result, Seducing the Demon feels derivative. Some critics applaud Jong for remaining steadfastly honest in her analysis of her own personal life and offering her thoughts on writing. Others conclude that, her debt to Isadora Wing paid in full, Jong might want to tilt at new windmills.<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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That said, the price of the book is easily worth the laughs from reading the two pages about Martha Stewart. That was hilarious.
I love Erica Jong novels but didn't like this one at all. No novel. Just writings about her.
There is power in the written word, and using that power to narrate one's life or the lives of those we meet along the way brings us (the writers) a unique perspective of those events. Jong says there is really not much of a distinction between autobiography and fiction, as the two seem interchangeable at times. In other words, we use real-life events in our stories, but we also embellish and fictionalize them.
Through doing so, we alleviate the pain of these real events.
She illustrates this by mentioning how "writing was a way of reinventing my own childhood. I could make it more horrible than it was and heal myself that way. Or I could make it better than it was. Both approaches can be curative. In writing, I had power over the very people who made me feel utterly powerless when I was a child. Even the most horrible childhood can be made tolerable just by writing about it."
Throughout this memoir that feels like a guidebook to understanding what drives writers, I was quite intrigued by how she came to write her various works, and specifically, how Fear of Flying came about. As a person who came of age during that time, I applaud the moxie it took for her to tell this story, especially during that particular time in history. The fact that the book is still read and selling tells us something about its appeal and the freedom it represents.
Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life earned four stars from me. I recommend it for other writers, especially those who simply enjoy knowing more about an individual writer's voice.
Jong's book was "started as a book of advice for fledgling writers." My ego, my age, and my status as a professional writer (struggling, though I may be) may exempt me from the "fledgling" label, but writing is important to me, and I'm always interested in reading books by writers for whom writing is also important - a way of life rather than a way to earn fame or money.
In the final chapter, titled "Does Writing Trump Family," she says, "If you want to be a nice person, don't write."
"There's no way to (write) without grinding up your loved ones and making them into raw hamburger," she writes. Jong states elsewhere that all fiction is autobiography and all autobiography is fiction. As for genres - fiction, non-fiction, memoir - they don't exist. "I've always thought that the idea of genre was a blot on the soul of literature," she says. "Categories like novel, memoir, biography have no value when you're writing - however much value they may have to librarians or bookstores. A book is a book is a book."
When I started reading Jong's book, I had no idea her words would speak to me so clearly. I often read in search of confirmation that others think what I think, have suffered as I have, and are oppressed by the same fears, the same guilts, the same demons. A good writer must be honest as much as he/she possesses a skill with words. When this honesty is present, the writer and reader communicate with each other in an almost spiritual way, soul-to-soul, heart-to-heart.
When reading Jong's description of her father's last days, I'm reminded of my mother and her defiance, her refusal to eat or get involved in activities at the nursing home, as well as her 1999 hospitalization during which she was uncooperative, ripping the respirator from her throat, a move that actually kick-started her recovery. Jong describes her father in a similar way. He was a "fighter" who "tried to escape from the emergency room, from the ICU and from the hospital" and was proven right when "the pneumonia he caught in the hospital that would finally do him in at ninety-two and not any of the three types of cancer her got and conquered...He pulled out breathing tubes, peeing tubes, IVs. He did not go quietly."
James Baldwin said that art is the order that comes out of the disorder of life. Jong says "I think writing elevates my mood because it's a way of imposing order on chaos."
Reading Jong's fine book elevated my mood, as well as provided insight into her talent. And that cover photo? Damn, she's hot!
Brian W. Fairbanks
Most recent customer reviews
This is a very entertaining memoir.Read more
"The notion of God brings us to the muse--the male writer's form of the demon. The muse also embodies creativity.Read more