E(sther) M(asserman) Broner John Leonard - Essay

John Leonard

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"A Weave of Women" is an astonishment. E. M. Broner seeks nothing less than to achieve, in a kind of epic poem, a recapitulation of the rhythms of female consciousness. It is circular and sinuous and ceremonial. I know of nothing else quite like it….

Her 15 women do their weaving in a stone house in the Old City in Jerusalem in 1972….

We meet the women as a group before we are introduced to them as individuals, with their private stories. But even at the beginning, each voice is distinct, so that when it is finally matched with its story the effect is of intensification, proof, exegesis, a circle within the circle, almost a series of jazz riffs. The men, necessarily, are less distinct, they are peripheral to the circle, and often storyless. But they are particularized: the Arab student, the kibbutznik, the silk salesman, the despairing brother and the orthodox fanatic. They belong to the geography of the novel, not to its ideology.

And what a geography it is. One thinks: Of course, everything would have to start all over again in Jerusalem, with ideas of God and Africa and pure light…. Not the least of her many accomplishments is this sense of place, of fact and grit, on which the mysticism drapes itself….

Any novel as ambitious as "A Weave of Women" is equally vulnerable. As the women sit around inventing their ceremonies, it is possible for the reader to nod off or to...

(The entire section is 438 words.)