Mineko Iwasaki's memoir is a really interesting counterpart of Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha" (if I remember correctly, he used interviews with...moreMineko Iwasaki's memoir is a really interesting counterpart of Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha" (if I remember correctly, he used interviews with her as a primary source material for his novel--is that right?), particularly if you're interested in understanding the more factual or detailed inner workings of the Gion Kobu (major geisha) district. It gets off to a pretty slow start, but once the book hits her entrance into training and professional work, it flies by. One thing that was particularly fascinating was being introduced to the (at least perceived) independence of many maiko/geiko in the industry. Perhaps this is a limited vantage point, as Mineko Iwasaki was the most powerful and successful geiko of her career-generation (and, according to some, in 100 years)--thus, we aren't really as aware of the hardships less successful women in the industry might have had. Nonetheless, her discussion of her extraordinary financial independence and freedom to move around (particularly in terms of 'political' appearances and sexual relationships outside of marriage) was rather illuminative for a reader (like me) knowing no more than Golden's novel and the accompanying film.
I don't think this necessarily discounts Golden's novel, because it's absolutely one of my favorites no matter what anyone says, but rather acts as a really revealing and genuine accent to the novel. For example, Iwasaki notes that "mizuage" has a double meaning in 'industry women'--for maiko/geiko, it is simply a sort of initiatory ritual as women move towards 'maturity' in their professional career, accompanied by donations (towards kimono, etc.--not involving sex) and a change in the geiko's status, whereas the same word for women working in the so-termed pleasure quarters involves precisely what Golden does in his novel--patrons bid for sexual favors with the prostitute, for lack of a better term. Thus, the confusion that arises in a Western perspective on geisha culture. And ultimately, what the reader is left with by the end of this memoir is a rare glance into a culture that prizes aestheticism and artistic inheritance above all else (even at the cost of becoming static or falling behind the pace of the rest of the world). Really heartfelt, if not the most well-written text I've read, and a bit slow-paced at times. But certainly well-worth the read, if you're interested. (less)
Had a friend lend this one to me after reading it for a Sociology course. It was fairly interesting--wittingly written and fast paced--but I felt at t...moreHad a friend lend this one to me after reading it for a Sociology course. It was fairly interesting--wittingly written and fast paced--but I felt at times that some of Moore's ideas weren't fully developed. Though it was 150 pages on sperm alone, I think she could have done more inquiry into some of the issues she was raising. For instance, she had a chapter that dealt with sex work/pornography, but it was as though she only gave an overview of the basics rather than really delving into things. She gave a few brief testimonials from sex workers, but failed to look into their feelings on the subject at hand--how a culture of semen can extend into gender construction. She talks about how they "manage" men by managing the potential toxicity of the johns' cum, but doesn't ask them what they believe that says about their performances as women, as women in their specific occupation, and the men they're dealing with. But though it had its flaws, namely my problem with Moore's seemingly incomplete study and articulation of this culture of cum, I think the book was at the least a really fascinating and entertaining read, and--if a bit half-hearted at points--she attempts to be really comprehensive in her analysis. (less)
After reading 'Atonement' over the summer, I really really wanted to love this collection. McEwan is clearly just gaining traction at this particular...moreAfter reading 'Atonement' over the summer, I really really wanted to love this collection. McEwan is clearly just gaining traction at this particular moment, though, and I felt that the stories--one after another, almost without fail--succeeded only on the strength of some gimmicky twist at the end. This isn't to say that they weren't unexpected turns, thrilling ones at times, but that without these turns, the stories would have been meandering and oftentimes mediocre. The first story is perverse, yes, but I feel like I've heard the same sort of sentiments about adolescent longing expressed before (though McEwan's wonderful dark humor remains intact here)--it's the twist that defines the story, and I feel as if that's perhaps one of the biggest weaknesses of any narrative--that if one thread is removed, the glamour unravels. Needless to say, that first story, "Last Day of Summer" and the final story, "Disguises," are the strongest of the group. The first one does indeed rest on its own twist, but I commend McEwan at least for daring to take the story to its most extreme conclusion--hard to read? Certainly, but I can't think of another author who would have handled incest in that way--shocking, sick, but also really bold. "Last Day of Summer" is the only one of the collection that, to my mind, has a genuine emotional investment in its characters--a convincing and compelling one. And the final story is just a damn good story, with both the perversion of the rest of the collection but the breathing room to develop and really flesh out its narrative world.
In short, it's a decent collection--a thrilling one to read, but clearly a bit of an exercise book. 3.5 stars.(less)
This is a fabulous fabulous book. It lags at times, but for someone who is only sparsely versed in psychoanalytic theory (as I am--now being forced ou...moreThis is a fabulous fabulous book. It lags at times, but for someone who is only sparsely versed in psychoanalytic theory (as I am--now being forced out of my protective zone, since I like using people like Kristeva, sans hardcore psychoanalytic theory), Benjamin provides very accessible accounts of major frameworks and debates that have been--and are still being--articulated in the theory. For example, we all know a bit about oedipalization--but Benjamin clearly defines the parameters of various visions of the process, laying everything lucidly out in order to structure her own argument concerning identificatory development. Someone here said that the chapter on S&M is badly researched (which admittedly, using a single book as representative isn't really social critique--it's literary critique), but the explication of the Story of O. was beautifully written and certainly fit in with the rest of the text--and ill-formed or not, it was probably my favorite chapter of the book.
In any case, this one comes highly recommended for those interested in feminist psychoanalytic criticism, those hoping to read more on domination and subordination, and anyone trying to escape the specter of penis envy. I'm actually planning to read another of her books soon, as this was so engaging and fascinating a read.(less)