Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Women authors

“Serenissima’ by Erica Jong was first published in 1987. Anyway, this Bantam edition which I bought second-hand recently was published in 1988. Eric Jong was already famous in the 1970s as a feminist author. I read her novel ‘Fear of Flying’ in the 1980s, and it didn’t make much of an impression on me, except maybe the graphic descriptions of sex (thirty years ago, sex obviously occupied a different place in my list of priorities). It’s hard to see an Eric Jong book in a bookshop nowadays, so I bought this one. I enjoyed reading it, more for her prose than the story, and more for vivid chracterisations and settings than for the sex (writers should admit that, after a deluge of DVD porn, the print stuff has lost its luster. Or  maybe it’s my age).

The book’s heroine, or spokesperson, is Jesicca Pruitt, an ageing Holywood actress who is in Venice to be a judge at the Venice Film Festival. She’s a great fan of William Shakespeare, and hopes that a planned film loosely based on the Merchant of Venice will revive her flagging career.

Among the many characters who fill the pages are an eccentric and amoral Soviet poet, and Shakespeare himself. Jessica escapes from the pressures of the paparazzi-dictated festival world, finally resulting in serious illness, by escaping into the 16th century. Was Shakespeare actually here in Venice with the Earl of Southampton? It’s an intriguing possibility to her, and she ends up living that past.

It’s a good book to read even if you are not into Shakespeare, and especially so if you are. The book can be read simply for the quality of its prose. She describes the world of glamour but her attitudes, observations and remarks are a world apart from other ‘glamour writers’ of the era such as Harold Robbins.

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