Wherein the Reader will find a Feminist Revision of John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (a.k.a. Fanny Hill) and William Hogarth's A Harlot's Progress; together with numerous Allusions to Daniel Defoe's Roxana and Moll Flanders, Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, and John Gay's The Beggar's Opera; with Appearances by such Noted Figures as Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and Anne Bonny; and offering many Adventures, Escapes, Sex Scenes, and Capitalized Nouns.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. In fact, I wanted to like the book, period. Alas, no such luck. Erica Jong, who started out as a specialist in eighteenth-century literature, clearly immersed herself in the period, and we have the usual stops on the tour: country houses, brothels, Newgate, ships, and so forth. We also have Wiccans. And sex. A lot of sex. Icky sex. Plus some familiar-sounding Reflections on the Evils of Mankind and the Need for Equality.
The hindrances to my enjoyment were as follows:
1) Look, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is not a good book. Did the world really need a rewrite?
2) Did I mention that the sex was icky? I mean, I could have done without Captain Whitehead's, um, predilections. Where's the Bad Sex Prize when you need it?
3) Maybe I've just read too much neo-18th c. fiction, but the book's representation of early Hanoverian England was predictable. Filth? Check. Carnivalesque? Check. Rakes? Check. Neo-18th c. fiction (and film, for that matter) so often seems stuck in Hogarthian mode. I understand the temptation, but it eventually becomes repetitive. (Incidentally, David Dabydeen's A Harlot's Progress offers a more complex take on Hogarth's series, told from the point of view of the African slave in #2.)
Or perhaps it's just that I read Jong too soon after Boyle and Powers.