Rebecca's Reviews > Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
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Jun 06, 11

bookshelves: asian, adult-fiction
Read from May 25 to June 06, 2011

There's a scene (everyone has seen it) in the movie, Spider-Man, where Mary Jane is being cornered by a group of thugs in an alleyway with the intent of gang-rape. Suddenly, Spider-Man comes to the rescue and saves her. Mary Jane, overcome with gratitude, hero worship and, despite her adult age, teen-age twitterpation, seductively lowers his mask (he's up-side-down, after all) and kisses him and then giddily laughs and smiles as he zooms away.

Written by a man.

This is not how a (normal?) woman would react in this situation! Eminent rape would not be followed by arousal towards a woman's dearest love - let alone a masked stranger. She would be fearful, disgusted and abhorrent.


I find there are very few men who can write from a woman's perspective and get the emotions correct (Wallace Stegner's depiction of Susan Burling Ward in Angle of Repose is the best I've read thus far). When the male author throws sex into the mix, he's bound for failure.

Throughout Memoirs of a Geisha I encountered episodes where the female characters showed no real emotional connection to their abuse, but none was more telling than Sayuri's Mizuage. It seemed she, just like Mary Jane in Spider-Man, jumped up afterwards and went about her day. She speaks of becoming a changed woman, but she doesn't go through any of the loathing (for her abuser nor her self) that would be more realistic in a situation such as this.

Further, any erotic descriptions that were meant to be titillating, were written in a fashion that would excite a man more than a woman. I thought often, during these depictions, of the raunchy writing in The Pillars of the Earth. It seems men like "dirty-talk", while in reality women prefer subtlety. Perhaps the Pointer Sisters said it best: I Need a Man with a Slow Hand. ;)


Memoirs of a Geisha is well-written, well-researched and sensually enticing, but I wonder if a female author had tackled the subject would it have come off as more than just a glorification of the sex-trade.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen What did you think? I hated the ending.


Rebecca Yeh. Meh.


Steve Try Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda - similar story but written by an actual (former) geisha. I thought Memoirs was quite beautiful in places.


Rebecca Thanks, Steve! I'll look into that. (I agree, there were many beautiful moments/descriptions in Memoirs)


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