Review

Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life

by Erica Jong



"What we all live for, hope for, would die for is what Henry Miller
calls 'the dictation.' That's when the words take off on a frolic
of their own, when you don't seem to be writing or thinking, but
rather taking down some divine dictation. When Miller said 'a
writer shouldn't think much,' he meant that we are better off
tapping into the dictation than thinking about it." In this
sprawling how-to guide turned memoir, longtime feminist and
ball-busting novelist and poet Erica Jong attempts to describe the
meaning behind her journey as a writer in pursuit of said
"dictation" for the last three decades. Peppered with juicy
remembrances of times past and written in Jong's signature bawdry
style, SEDUCING THE DEMON offers an up-close-and-personal look into
the life and words of a legendary literary demoness.

According to Jong, SEDUCING THE DEMON was originally intended to be
an instructional guide of sorts, complete with suggestions and tips
on how best to hone the craft of writing. Prior to publication, she
scrapped the overly preachy manuscript and decided to write a
glaringly candid memoir of her years as a writer instead. The end
result is a mixed bag --- part confessional autobiography, part
education manual. In some instances, she focuses on her wild sex
life and the power instilled in her when writing about sex (it was
Jong who coined the phrase "zipless f---" in her bestselling novel
FEAR OF FLYING). In other sections, she writes about the prevalence
of alcoholism and drug addiction in the field. Then, she darts back
to her life as a sex-craving wife and mother, and then moves on to
the privileges and pitfalls of fame. Some readers may feel
frustrated by this seeming lack of focus, while others may find her
stream-of-consciousness and lack of form refreshing. Whatever the
verdict, it is clear that Jong has lived a life worth writing
about.

In addition to penning 19 books of poetry, fiction and memoir, Jong
has been married four times (she is still married to her fourth
husband, Ken) and is the proud mother of novelist Molly Jong-Fast
and grandmother of Max. She has hobnobbed with the likes of Sylvia
Plath and Ted Hughes and calls Henry Miller a friend and an
inspiration. She has slept with countless men and unabashedly so
(one of them being Martha Stewart's former husband), and has
battled the bottle like many of her predecessors and come out on
top.

Her travels and corresponding writing enclaves have been extensive
and far-flung, from a cramped fourth floor walk-up in Heidelberg,
Germany (where she wrote FEAR OF FLYING at the ripe old age of 23),
to a water-logged flat in Venice, to her current home in
Connecticut. She dabbled as a painter as a young girl, enjoyed a
short stint as an actress in the lurid play The Vagina
Monologues
, and attempted to translate FEAR OF FLYING for the
screen when working with director-turned-cocaine addict Julia
Phillips (the project was never green-lighted).

In the midst of all of this bedlam and glamour, Jong has always
found time to write. "It's a way of imposing order on chaos," and
for a woman who thrives on adventure and bucking the system in her
own special way, recording her experiences and sharing them with
the world is essential. "There is in writing --- or any creative
work --- a kind of f--- you impulse. Part of the energy comes from
sheer rebelliousness. I'll show you! a writer says. I am
not who you think I am
…No one really asks for a new book,
but you need to write it. And your need will eventually infect your
reader…Your job is to always be ready."

And ready she always is. A no-holds-barred memoir from one of
America's most outspoken women, SEDUCING THE DEMON will both
titillate and satisfy.

Reviewed by Alexis Burling on January 23, 2011

Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life
by Erica Jong

  • Publication Date: March 15, 2007
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher
  • ISBN-10: 1585425141
  • ISBN-13: 9781585425143