Smart and sexy

The author of "Fear of Flying" selects six novels for those who believe that the brain is the most important erogenous zone.

Topics: Philip Roth, Readers and Reading, Books,

Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare’s Love Life by Anthony Burgess

The best contemporary novel ever written about Shakespeare and an erotic novel to boot. It takes its imagery straight out of the sonnets, imagines a dark lady who is the incarnation of the muse all poets must worship (though they die anyway), gives the necessary weight to the few known facts of Shakespeare’s life, yet takes off into the realm of myth and Eros on kaleidoscopic wings of words. Faithful to Shakespeare’s creed that without language, Eros is dumb.

Life Force by Fay Weldon

Women may reassure their lovers that size doesn’t matter, but here is a witty story about the way a well-hung man, the proud possessor of “a magnificent dong,” changes the lives of four female friends.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

What intelligent women really feel about sex, politics, men, children, war, love. The greatness of the sexual musings here is that they are intermingled with intellectual and political musings, as in life. Menstruation, orgasm, obsession with unsuitable men — it’s all here, told in the voice of an artist heroine on whom nothing is lost. Do women hate the smell of their menstrual blood? Are they unable to reach orgasm with men they don’t love? Doris Lessing wrote about these things first. And best. The intelligence of this book is inspiring.



Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

The novel that made it possible to write about the scuzzy side of sexual fantasy. A raucous epic of masturbation that is really a tribute to impossible oedipal obsessions. It inspired me when I was writing “Fear of Flying.”

In Praise of the Stepmother, The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto by Mario Vargas Llosa

Two loosely interconnected novels about Eros in marriage (is there such a thing?). Vargas-Llosa proves there is — though it is oedipal Eros in the first novel and fantasy Eros in the second.

Erica Jong is the author of "Fear of Flying" and many other novels and books of poetry.

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