September 22, 1980 12:00 PM

by Erica Jong

Fear of Flying and How to Save Your Own Life had a lot of autobiographical, liberated-female zip to them. Now Jong has written another variation on her life, in the guise of an 18th-century memoir. Jong’s title figure insists Fanny Hill, the classic of pornography by John Cleland, was all lies. Erica’s book is the woman’s true story. “I had departed Lymeworth a mere Girl of Seventeen, my Virginity just taken…In twelve brief Months I had known Witches and Highwaymen, Whores and Hell-Fire Clubs, Intrigues and Ecstacies. I had travers’d the great Abyss that separates a Maiden from a Mother.” Those events take 300 pages; later Fanny becomes a sailor, a pirate, a celebrated writer, finds love and inherits a fortune. She’s full of observations that are mean, funny and tinged with truth: “But I have ne’er been in a Chamber with a Lawyer when I did not wish either to scream with Desperation or else to fall into the deepest of Sleeps…” Despite its length, pseudo-antique language and distracting capitalizations, Fanny is absolutely charming. (NAL, $12.95)

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