Jong-Fast, Molly 1978–
JONG-FAST, Molly 1978–
PERSONAL: Born 1978; daughter of Erica Jong (a novelist) and Jonathan Fast (a novelist and screen-writer); married; children: one son. Education: Attended New York University, Barnard College, and Wesleyan University; Bennington College, M.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—New York, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Villard, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
Normal Girl (novel), Villard Books (New York, NY) 2000.
The Sex Doctors in the Basement: True Stories from a Semi-Celebrity Childhood (memoir), Villard Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Has published essays and articles in the New York Times, W, Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, Marie Claire, London Times, Elle, Modern Bride, and Forward.
ADAPTATIONS: Normal Girl was adapted as a screenplay by Bret Easton Ellis.
SIDELIGHTS: Molly Jong-Fast comes from a family of famous novelists: her mother is literary superstar Erica Jong (Fear of Flying); her father is Jonathan Fast (The Beast); and her grandfather is Howard Fast (Spartacus). She told Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jennifer Weiner that she has been writing since she was four years old and stated, "I always thought that books were the most important thing in the world." Jong-Fast published the semi-autobiographical novel Normal Girl when she was age twenty-one, and has more recently completed a collection of biographical essays, The Sex Doctors in the Basement: True Stories from a Semi-Celebrity Childhood. Both books present the more outrageous, horrific, and sometimes humorous aspects of growing up a privileged child in New York City. The fact that Jong-Fast has become a writer has been considered newsworthy. Reviews have credited her with a deft use of humorous observation, while profiles have been riveted on the connections between her writing and her personal life.
One of Jong-Fast's reasons for writing Normal Girl was that she wanted to present an unglamorized account of substance abuse. Bulimic as a teenager and an alcoholic by age sixteen, the author also used cocaine, LSD, sleeping pills, and diet pills. At age nineteen she was sent to the Hazelden rehabilitation clinic. In interviews she speaks of struggling to grow up and create a sense of self-worth. Finding her identity as a writer has also been difficult, but she is proud of not shying away from writing because of the fear of being measured against her mother's success. Jong-Fast has not read any of the books written by her mother, who she called "the self-styled queen of erotica" in the South Africa Sunday Times Online. Interviewer Philip Delves Broughton perceived that, in contrast to Jong, the author "has donned the wimple of moral conservatism." While she remains close to her mother, Jong-Fast has reversed roles in an ironic way. As Los Angeles Times writer Louise Roug pointed out, the daughter was mortified by people identifying her with children portrayed in her mother's fiction; Jong now faces the same kind of comparisons to the often absent, socialite mother in Normal Girl.
The central character in Normal Girl is nineteen-year-old Miranda Woke, a rich Manhattan drug abuser with rich, drug-abusing friends. Miranda fears that she contributed to the death of her boyfriend by overdose, an event she cannot remember. She returns to partying, but due to the intervention of a former boyfriend is soon sent to a rehabilitation clinic. Her divorced socialite mother and architect father are too busy to have much influence. Throughout, Jong-Fast comments on the social ills rampant in New York City, and she makes fun of the self-obsession, cult of celebrity, and devotion to "The Next Big Thing-ism."
Critics were most impressed with Normal Girl's satirical edge. Writing for the New Statesman, Tim Teeman called the author "a precise observer" and remarked that her "observations on Miranda's drug and alcohol dependency are sharper, cleverer, and more self-aware than the stuff about her new, clean life." A Publishers Weekly writer observed that "while it is witty at times, this tale of meltdown and resurrection is ultimately too much like its protagonist: sexy but superficial." With its "interesting and eventually sympathetic heroine," Booklist reviewer Kristine Huntley called the book a "promising first novel."
In The Sex Doctors in the Basement: True Stories from a Semi-Celebrity Childhood, Jong-Fast offers gossipy chapters from real life. The pitfalls of attending the posh Manhattan Day School, meeting her mother's boyfriends, watching her grandfather marry a woman half his age, and meeting with the psychiatrists her mother hopes will help Molly lose weight are among the book's acid anecdotes. While a Publishers Weekly reviewer called the work "a memoir that's long on jokes but short on substance," a Kirkus Reviews critic praised the collection's "neurotic, very funny essays."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2000, Kristine Huntley, review of Normal Girl, p. 1652.
Entertainment Weekly, July 31, 1998, Alexandra Jacobs Flamm, "Between the Lines," p. 66; June 30, 2000, Clarissa Cruz, "Family Fare: Does Having a Famous Last Name Lead to Literary Fame? It Sure Doesn't Hurt," review of Normal Girl, p. 124.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2005, review of The Sex Doctors in the Basement: True Stories from a Semi-Celebrity Childhood, p. 35.
Los Angeles Times, September 10, 2001, Louise Roug, "She's Her Mother's Daughter, but Her Life's Plot Is All Her Own," p. E2.
New Statesman, May 29, 2000, Tim Teeman, "Talk Show," review of Normal Girl p. 56.
New York Times, June 18, 2000, Alex Witchel, "Counterintelligence," section 9, p. 2.
Philadelphia Inquirer, June 5, 2000, Jennifer Weiner, "Novelist Molly Jong-Fast Has Been Writing since She Was Four."
Publishers Weekly, July 20, 1998, Judy Quinn, "About a 'Girl'" p. 112; May 8, 2000, review of Normal Girl, p. 204; December 20, 2004, review of The Sex Doctors in the Basement, p. 43.
Beatrice Web site, http://www.beatrice.com/interviews/ (April 23, 2005), Ron Hogan, interview with Jong-Fast.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (June 23, 2000), interview with Jong-Fast.