Books by Ursule Molinaro

Released: Nov. 30, 1994

Molinaro, replacing her mildly experimental style of previous fictions (The New Moon with the Old Moon in Her Arms, 1993, etc.) with mostly straight-ahead narrative, effectively retells the Oedipus myth from the viewpoint of his mother/wife, who knows the terrible secret but chooses to marry her son anyway. In a series of short chapters, which stay mostly with Jocasta's perspective (but which also range from Oedipus and the couple's daughter, Antigone, to the man/woman prophet Tiresias), Molinaro limns a thesis she first puts forth in an author's note: ``The myth of Oedipus...retells the ritualistic slaying of the old king, and the queen's remarriage.... Queen Jocasta's suicide is a protest against Oedipus claiming the throne in patrilinear succession.'' Fortunately, Molinaro doesn't let such pedantry get in the way of a good story. Jocasta, who is ``Hera's highpriestess, after all,'' becomes pregnant with Oedipus on a night when ``female power will be at its apex,'' loses her son in a country where ``bribery is booming,'' and lives through the death of her husband, Laius, and subsequent remarriage to her son by deciding to ``discipline my mind not to think anything I don't want him to know.'' Molinaro plays around with ideas and subplots as Oedipus writes home to his ostensible parents, enjoys masochistic sex with Jocasta, has children, and puts Tiresias on the trail of the oracular mystery, foreshadowing the fateful moment. When it arrives, Jocasta throws herself to her death, offering ``a long-due sacrifice.'' In a playful epilogue, Antigone, among others, helps to finish the story, which her dead mother and blind father can no longer tell: ``Father was so worried that holding my hand might be misinterpreted we finally acquired a staff, and both held onto it.'' It's the flip side of the Oedipus Complex, what Freud might have made of the Greek tragedy had he been a woman and a novelist. Molinaro's most accessible work. Read full book review >
THE NEW MOON WITH THE OLD MOON IN HER ARMS by Ursule Molinaro
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 2, 1993

An original myth-laden novella, set in ancient Athens, about a woman who offers herself as a public sacrifice in order to revive a moon goddess cult. In a learned, readable style, Molinaro (A Full Moon of Women, 1990, etc.) makes up a feminist fiction that, while occasionally cluttered or pedantic, is finally human and moving. The narrator—a 30-year-old unmarried poet—is kept sumptuously at public expense for a year before the ritual (or ``Thargelia'') in which she and a man, a surrogate bride and groom, will be chased through the streets and stoned to death on Expulsion Day. But unlike past victims, who were destitute before the year of public care preceding their deaths, our narrator is affluent from the get-go. At first, she romanticizes her decision, remembering how, as a baby, she was given ``a pebble to throw.'' Now, she is determined to ``throw out the steadily growing discrimination against my sex.'' In the course of the story, she becomes involved with a sponge-diver and his daughter and otherwise reflects, in excerpts from her diary, about myriad things. Likewise, Molinaro, in her own academic voice, pads the story with lit-chit, feminist theory, arcane scholarship, and even commentary about sponge- diving. The result is a historical fiction, written in a postmodernist fragmented style (which mostly works), about a woman who's full of ``causes that concerned me only as fillers for my audienceless, loveless life'' and who comes finally to a tragic maturity. (The British edition hardcover is also available at $22.00: ISBN: 0- 7043-5057-2) Read full book review >
THIRTEEN by Ursule Molinaro
Released: May 26, 1989

Novelist (Positions with White Roses, Encores for a Dilettante) and translator Molinaro writes many of these mildly experimental stories in a crimped style that suits her usual subject: an alienated self-absorption that often leads to disaster. Originally published in journals such as New American Review, New Directions, and Denver Quarterly, these stories at their best dramatize the way extreme states of mind can be hidden from ordinary perception and from one's own consciousness. In "The Cyclotaur," an aging female film-cutter lives with a psychotic younger lover and shares his demonic vision of the cyclotaur. "AC-DC" is a fascinating, jittery account of a female translator (yet another sleepwalker driven by subconscious forces) who impulsively directs a murderer to hide from the police in her apartment. "Remote Control" dramatizes the moralistic voyeurism of a woman with a bad marriage—who watches "her private morning soap" through the open window of a neighbor woman engaged in sexual foreplay with the adolescent boys whom she tutors. In "Xmas Tryst," a vapid career woman on an Hawaiian holiday tries to be friendly in a bar with a Samoan, and he kicks her to death. Of the rest, some are competent but unremarkable, some promising but ultimately too clever ("Shadowplay on Snow"; "Dr. Arnold Biedermeier's Suicide Parlors"), and a couple get carried away with too many fidgety narrative gimmicks ("Sweet Cheat of Freedom"). Overall, then, sardonic black humor and a large dose of misanthropy combine successfully in the best here—to create an unbalanced, violent world where the distance between people is always too wide for them to cross. Read full book review >