Commentary Magazine


Reasons to Commit Suicide

One of my most productive confidential sources in Washington keeps what he tells me is an expanding file on his desk labeled “reasons to commit suicide.”  He occasionally sends me items that he’s added to it.

Here’s the latest, a conference starting tomorrow at Columbia University: “Fear of Flying”: Can a Feminist Classic Be an American Classic?

Thirty-five years ago, Erica Jong’s first novel, the international bestseller Fear of Flying, electrified readers around the world and sparked fierce debate. Breaking from conventional expectations of fiction by and about women, Fear of Flying freed other women writers to write intelligently and openly about sex and to debate intimate issues of importance to women. Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired a large collection of Erica Jong’s archival material in 2007. Jong’s papers have become an important asset as the Columbia Libraries continue to document the history of women and feminism in contemporary American society. In an outgrowth of this interest and intent, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library will join the Columbia University Institute for Research on Women and Gender and the Center for Research on Women at Barnard College in gathering a group of distinguished writers and critics for a half-day conference, “Fear of Flying: Can a Feminist Classic be a Classic?” on Friday, March 28, 2008.

Speakers will revisit Jong’s novel and will assess the status of women’s writing and of feminism in today’s literary scene and the possibilities of subversion open to contemporary young women writers.

Here is the question of the day. What would be more painful to endure: watching Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reap the dividends of being ineffectually insulted by the president of Columbia, or attending this conference?