Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

I just finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha and I am soon going to watch the film. There are many things about this story that I find interesting and worth discussing. FIrst, I would like to applaud the writing of Arthur Golden. Secondly, I would like to discuss the impact of this book upon me as a reader. After I see the film I will review it in a later post.

The Writing of the Novel:

It was an absolute pleasure to read this book. The writing is creative and original. Many of the sayings in this book, I assume are common sayings in Japan. These sayings are a large part of the reason that I enjoyed the writing of the book. The story, too is wonderful because it reads as it if is a true story. Golden has definitely put in a great deal of effort and time in shaping his story and it shows. The novel also includes many historical tidbits. It is less clear who of the figures in the story are real and if any of the story was taken from real relationships between real geisha. This would be interesting to know and read more about. Having started and finished the book during a time when advertisements for the movie were popular, I had expectations of the direction of the story that simply were unfounded and therefore not met. What do I mean? Well, in the ad campaign for the movie, one is drawn to believe that a love story is at the heart of the story. This is not really true. The book focuses very little attention on the love story between Sayuri and the Chairman. In fact, of any of the relationships throughout the book including Sayuri and Mameha, Sayuri and Hatsumomo, Sayuri and Nobu, and Sayuri and Pumpkin, we know the least about the relationship between the Chairman and Sayuri once it has really begun as a romance. This is perhaps the only thing that I felt Golden really gave up on. His attentions to detail throughout the book on the life of a geisha do not follow with the relationship between Sayuri and the Chairman. In many ways I could see the story ending simply with the first intimate discussion between the Chairman and Sayuri but instead Golden lures the reader in a little more only to give a very choppy and rushed ending. This last section of the book (perhaps the last 30 pages or so) should almost have been left out completely because it didn't add anything to the story. The only way it could have added something is if it was extended and written with the same attention and care as the rest of the novel.
If I had to rate this book, I would give it an A (Not an A + simply because of the ending).

The Impact of This Novel Upon Me

As a woman, this novel was much more to me than an excellent novel. Throughout the book, I paid a good deal of attention to the etiquette of the geisha, trying myself to improve my own manners and etiquette. Although I would never wish the life of a geisha upon any woman, there are many aspects of the art of geisha that I have to appreciate (only when they are separated from all the negative aspects of it all). One example is how the geisha used their voices, movements, and eyes to have an impact on men. They were not strippers, they didn't perform sexual acts in front of other men. The relationships they had with men were private and there was some shred of respect for the women. There is one moment in the film where Sayuri is told how the way she pours sake can mean so many things. Foremost she was told how to show the under-side of her forearm to accentuate the feminine delicacy of her arm. This really struck me and I won't ever forget it. Recently, mainly while reading this book, I have been thinking about how the female form has lost something when it is openly displayed and often in a crude way, to others. I am speaking of the women and girls who wear clothes that are so revealing they leave nothing to the imagination. I often wish that the "mystery of the female form" the essence of it was kept more private because perhaps then it would be valued in a different way. I am not saying that all porn or nude art work etc should be stopped. There are certainly ways to display the body which are not crude but quite beautiful. However, I find that pornography can really de-value the female form by making it too accessible, too exposed. Although in the past, women were too covered by clothing and the ability to wear what one wants is in fact a huge privilege, I find that we have lost something in this change. The lines and forms of the female body are not "displayed" like art work the way the geisha are really pieces of art work, they are exposed and sold in a cheap and really tasteless way. I am sure many people will disagree with me on this, but oh well. I really just hope that there are some men that still appreciate when women maintain a mystery, to be unveiled when intimacy begins. I am not talking of prudeness or virginity or any of that crap. I am simply talking of allowing others to visually consume you in a nice five course meal instead of buffet style where everything is layed out on the table at once so as to not allow any one piece of food to stand out and be valued, consumed, and enjoyed by itself.

All of this babbling is how the book impacted me and I am sure that all of my views here may be personal but hopefully interesting to some of you.

Soon I will see the film and offer my comments on it.


Renegade Eye said...

It makes my day, to read your writing again.

Buffet? Five Course Meal? Decisions, decisions.

Reidski said...

It's good to see you back in blogworld - you were missed. I've had the book at home for a few years but haven't yet got round to reading it. Your comments and recommendation will mean that I shall pick it up next.

Like Renegade, I was also struck by the visualisation of sex, sexuality and femininity being a battle between a five course meal and a buffet.

ella said...

Well my visualization of sex or just the "giving of the body" regardless of what ends up happening, is that this "giving" is too rushed and therefore loses so much meaning. OF course if you visit a prostitute or use someone for simply getting to dessert then fine that is your goal. However, if you are having a relationship of any kind with a person that is to continue, I would find it more interesting to "give" in courses, stages so to speak. Even if you have been with a person for years, married etc, making love is so much more interesting if you begin in small bites from time to time instead of devouring one another so quickly that you burp and forget how the meal tasted.