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The Book of the Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues
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The Book of the Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  740 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
They charmed some of Europe’s most illustrious men, honing their social skills as well as their sexual ones, and accumulating wealth, fame, and power along the way. Unlike their geisha counterparts, courtesans didn't lived in brothels or bend their wills to suit their suitors. They were the muses who enflamed the hearts of our most celebrated artists--Raphael, Manet, Dumas ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 10th 2002 by Broadway Books (first published 2001)
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Jun 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, naughty, paris, 2013
There are four major problems with The Book of the Courtesans:

1) Histories should contain more history than assumptions and fictional storytelling, and this one does not. Even though Griffin does state 'one can imagine' quite a few times before wandering off into fantasy land, that doesn't excuse the fact that this is more romanticized conjecture than actual history.

2) There was no logical progression and threatened at times to get bogged down in its own confusing narrative. The way the author j
Jul 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very interesting and well-written consideration, through case studies, of the qualities that made courtesans successful.

Not to be confused with the Susan Dunant novel published a few years later with the same cover and almost the same title.
Jul 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Susan Griffin presents a fascinating and in depth look of the lives of some of the most independent, fiery and well-educated women, from times when such qualities were generally frowned upon in "respectable" females.

Though she references priestess/courtesans from greek and Roman days, and touches on personalities of the early 20th century, Griffin turns her gaze mostly to the courtesans of France from 1700 -1900. She also includes the dancer Nijinsky. . . a male courtesan, by her accounts.

Her st
Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Griffin focuses nearly exclusively on European, particularly French, courtesans and their world. She makes few references to the courtesans of Venice or Greece, although she highlights two American women she believes are part of the tradition: Marion Davies and Klondike Kate. The bibliography is also heavily weighted towards France.

Griffin's style is light and enchanting, almost as if she is imparting delicious gossip or advice. These are women who lived fascinating lives in great contrast to th
Kris Larson
Sep 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Way too many abstract passages on the nature of joy, or how the very atoms in a woman's body can be charming, etc. Worth reading for the snippets about the lives of actual courtesans, but she seems to have gleaned these from questionable sources, such as the autobiographies of said courtesans, without bothering to authenticate her details. I'd rather read the actual autobiographies and skip the rhetoric.
Avery Grey
Oct 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
Griffin has an impressive resume and I wonder if this book was thrown together quickly to fulfill some contractual obligation. Other than the inane "virtues" categories, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to this. The author swings wildly between decades and centuries, trying to fit the courtesans into the categories, without actually delving into who they were as women. She includes women who weren't actually courtesans (Coco Chanel, Marion Davies) without expanding on why, and is almost clin ...more
Nov 30, 2007 rated it liked it
This was a fun book that felt weightier than it was. I really loved the bios of some fascinating women I wouldn't have otherwise met, along with the juicy anecdotes that will be fun at parties (if I end up at the right parties). I was not enamored with the book's organization, however. It too often felt like a stretch to match each profiled character to a particular virtue, just to keep the structure intact. If you're a not-too-serious history buff who enjoys salacious content, this will be a jo ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was such an interesting book… full of anecdotal evidence as to the power, influence, grace, charm, and wit of a group of women who have often been recast in history, or worse yet, written out altogether.
Eco Erin
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the history and societal impact of courtesans.
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: she-study
I hadn't expected to want to keep this book; I figured it was another read-and-give-away sort, but I was drawn into the vignettes, the quick glimpses of women Griffin deemed "courtesans," from centuries previous to the 1930s. I'm drawn to Klondike Kate and think I might do some research on her for a poem. I appreciated how well-researched the book was, without showing its cards--the writing is clean enough to feel smooth, just enough. Her organization--by "virtues," as opposed by chronology or s ...more
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Geisha vs. Oiran 1 2 Dec 07, 2014 03:50PM  
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Susan Griffin is an award winning poet, writer, essayist and playwright who has written nineteen books, including A Chorus of Stones, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Named by Utne reader as one of the top hundred visionaries of the new millenium, she is the recipient of an Emmy for her play Voices, an NEA grant and a MacArthur Grant for Peace and Inter ...more
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