A FULL MOON OF WOMEN by Ursule Molinaro


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An often sketchy, mannered compendium of biographical fragments about notable women (29 of them: some famous, some rescued from oblivion, and including a feminist interpretation of Snow White). Though Molinaro (Thirteen, 1989; Encores for a Dilettante, 1983, etc.) writes in paragraphs, she leaves odd rhythmic spaces between words. Many of the pieces, in fact, are almost throwaways. Molinaro credits friends for suggesting subjects, which may explain the haphazard selection process but not the mildly experimental, rough-edged meditations--prose-poem-like bits that often read like research notes, deliberately unpolished and labeled with sardonic subtitles and birthdates. For some figures here, though, that works: Joan of Arc, for instance (""Checking In & Out of Hell""), speaks in her own anguished voice, questioning the Bishop of Beauvais--who sentenced her to death, it seems, for dressing in an unwomanly fashion. But for other figures, the method comes across as gimmicky. The best-known (they range across time and space) include Madame Blavatsky (mystic or impostor?), Marie Laveau (voodoo queen, with a list of powders and potions), Cassandra (punished for spurning the most beautiful of the gods), and Alexandra David-Neel (an adventuress in, among other place, Tibet). Other women: Lisa Meitner, an Austrian nuclear physicist who had early successes with uranium fission; Ka' ahumanu, a powerful Hawaiian queen; Frida Kahlo, a painter handicapped with a deteriorating spine and a jealous nature; and, last, Snow White (""a desire fantasy of the perfect victim every man dreams of rescuing""). Diverting and occasionally informative--but, unfortunately, just getting the inspired idea and sketching it out were evidently sufficient for Molinaro. Most readers won't agree.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1990
Publisher: Dutton