POWER DREAMERS: THE JOCASTA COMPLEX by Ursule Molinaro

POWER DREAMERS: THE JOCASTA COMPLEX

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Molinaro, replacing her mildly experimental style of previous fictions (The New Moon with the OM 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.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1994
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: McPherson