March 07, 1994 12:00 PM

“My generation had Doris Day as a role model, then Gloria Steinem—then Princess Diana,” says Erica Jong, 51. “We are the most confused generation.” Her own attempt to sort things out was her novel Fear of Flying, the notorious best-seller about young wife Isadora Wing’s quest for liberating sexual adventure. “I had a sense that I was going to open the top of a woman’s head and show what was going on inside,” says Jong. “And I say head because, really, if you read the book, you’ll see it’s more head than genitals.” Isadora, in fact, rarely has sex, a point lost on many readers. “I was appalled by the sacks of mail and the requests for soiled underwear,” says Jong, an 18th-century literary scholar whose work as a poet and critic has been overshadowed ever since. Nor does she think, looking back, that her book was in the vanguard of a sexual revolution. “There was no revolution. I see even more torment and confusion today.” All in all, she concludes, “I don’t wish I hadn’t written Fear of Flying, but it seems very far away from my life now.” She has just completed a memoir, due out this year. It’s called Fear of Fifty.

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