Mr.B's Reviews > Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
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Apr 11, 09

I find the notion that a white European male cannot know and write about the life of an Asian female both curious and irritating. It is curious to say that the imaginative power of one person cannot empathically comprehend the mind-set and lifestyle of another, regardless of cultural, sexual, or racial boundaries. How, then, would it be possible to assert that? It is irritating because it would deprive us of so many key literary figures who fail the test: Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina come readily to mind. If a white, male author cannot create a believable portrayal of an Asian female character, what enables a reader or a reviewer who is not an Asian female to judge the portrayal?

I really liked this book. I thought the main character was as heroic as she could have been under the circumstances. She was intelligent and resourceful, though trapped in a nearly helpless situation. Frankly, I don't much care if she was historically or culturally accurate. It is a work of fiction. If I want history or anthropology, I'll consult a textbook or monograph. People who judge fiction as though it were purporting to be history or sociology or anthropology are tiresome. It's called the "willing suspension of disbelief." Relax and enjoy the book.
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