Friday, January 23, 2009

Memoirs of a Geisha

I finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden last night. I am not going to review it since the novel was written over a decade ago. I'll just say that I loved it and that the story has earned its place in my top ten list of all-time favorite books.

I also enjoyed the connection I felt to my brother Doug while reading the story - being as he is in Japan as I type and as I finished the second half of the book. That I can't explain - but reading about Kyoto and hearing that he planned to visit Kyoto just seemed "neat" to me.

Overall, I tremendously enjoyed reading about Japanese tradition - the tying of Kimono, tea ceremony, the ways in which Japanese men and women communicated and built relationships. This is a subject I'd certainly like to learn a great deal more about.

I found it mildly deflating, however, to hear that the author breached his contract with his main source of information, a Geisha from Gion who broke her code of silence to assist him in his research, and was ultimately sued by her for defamation of character. The terms were that he was not to release her name and to certainly not reveal she had assisted him. Well, he thanked her in the acknowledgments. D'oh!

However, I am pleased that as a result of this lawsuit, Mineko Iwasaki, the Geisha who assisted Golden, decided to write her own memoir, and leave out the fiction that Golden built his story upon. After all, she was already receiving death threats for breaking the code of silence - why not go all out?

So Geisha, a Life is the next book on my list. I am saddened that my reading will come to a crawl now that school has started. So technically the next thing I will be reading is Gilgamesh.

Drinking tea imported from Japan out of my brand new tetsubin, should make that more bearable though. (A Valentine's Day gift from Mike)


Jackie said...

Ooh! I never read that! But, we are great fans of Japanese film, and I've seen just about every Kurosawa movie available, among others. Perhaps you might enjoy them as well!

Have a great weekend!

Doug Walsh said...

What a coincidence, I hadn't seen your post about this until this weekend, but I actually picked up that book by Mineko Iwasaka (Geisha of Gion -- UK Title) and am now reading it and was going to tell you about the connection with Memoirs. I'll let you know how it is. I'm sure there is room for both books in this world and, let's be honest, sometimes a little embellishment never hurt anything (unless that something is divided into a million tiny pieces... LOL!).