How to Save Your Own Life

by Erica Jong
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $8.95
We left Isadora White Wing soaping her hair in a London bathtub, her future unclear. We rejoin her several years later, when she has begun to convince herself, “in the manner of psychotics who project their own delusions on the environment . . . that leaving one’s husband [is] the only, the cosmic, theme.” Now the heroine of Fear of Flying is the successful author of the notorious Candida Confesses; in love with an affable young screenwriter, she is positively yearning to fly. Her unresponsive husband, Bennett, reveals a long past affair; her own adulteries pale m the face of his treachery (it is, of course, his hypocrisy that she cannot bear); and Isadora walks out on him for good.
How To Save Your Own Life lacks the scope of Fear of Flying, perhaps because the author keeps less distant from her narrative. Obvious autobiographical details, complete with thinly disguised Famous Names, are a distraction from the wit that attracts one segment of Jong’s following. (The other segment is well and dutifully served by a predictable series of sexual encounters.)
The continual contrast between Isadora’s inward wry defiance and her selfeffacing behavior should once again elicit chuckles of rueful recognition from a number of women, for Erica Jong has a knack for describing female guilt and related confining emotions. But that her talent seems to sharpen itself at the expense of husband, friends, and lovers is bound to be distasteful to some readers.
-Martha Spaulding