Parachutes & Kisses is the third book in Erica Jong's Isadora Wing trilogy that started with the terrifically good Fear of Flying (noted here) and How to Save Your Own Life (reviewed here). I ate up the first one, really liked the second one, and am cool on this third one. The writing is magnificent, but Isadora as an emotionally whirling divorcee is a less likeable and occasionally tedious, as she juggles multiple lovers, grieves the death of her marriage, and tries to talk her ex-husband into returning.
The best thing going in this book is Jong’s unabashed homage to her literary heroes, including Cheever, Roth, Bellow, Updike, Keats, Henry Miller, and Colette. I was struck by the idea that this was her “Updike” book the way Fear of Flying was a “Roth” book and How to Save Your Own Life was a “Miller” book. This story of bed hopping in the Connecticut suburbs is the female version of so many John Updike novels. She even ends with an (acknowledged) appropriation of Henry Bech’s cultural exchange trip to Soviet Russia.
Although crowded with sex scenes (one that actually nauseated me), Jong’s literary reflections and several exemplary passages redeemed the book, but just. For example:
Isadora’s generation is middle-aged. . . . They have reached the age where they meet their new lovers at A.A.; the age where some of their friends are addicts, some of the friends are bankrupt, and some other friends are dead; where their children want real horses, not toy ones, and where they no longer worry about their own pregnancies but about their daughters’.
That kind of dense summing up that crams together so many details and ideas is why I read Erica Jong. At her best, she is right up there in the American fiction pantheon. I would not recommend Parachutes & Kisses as a standalone novel, but for readers who loved Isadora Wing in the earlier books, there is something to be gained by finishing the trilogy.
My review of How to Save Your Own Life
My review of Bech: A Book by John Updike
My review of Serenissima by Erica Jong
If you would like your review of Parachutes & Kisses or any other Erica Jong book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.