Charles Clanton Rogers

Reflections based on poetry, music, visual art, book reviews, history of science, first-person history, philosophical essays and International Blogging

https://clanton1934.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/02-bess-you-is-my-woman-now.m4aphoto27211

The challenge of a Geisha, like all artIsts, is to distil Truth into a gift, with which to distract the rest of us from the grind of life. ccr

Book review: Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

51Ekl9s2-tL._SL300_

My first awareness of Japan and the people of Japan was when I was seven years old, on the afternoon of December 7, 1941. I remember where I was, precisely,  when paperboys ran through our street shouting. An extra-edition newspaper’s bold headline read JAPANESE SNEAK ATTACK PEARL HARBOR. In a few short hours, my seven-year-old world was expanded to include “Pearl Harbor”, “Pacific Ocean”, “Asia”, “Japan”, “Japanese dive bombers”, “Japanese aircraft carriers”, “sunken battleships”, and “little Japanese monsters”. Some moments in life become the stage for the compound Odysseys that play out over years.

In the next few days, all Japanese were vilified. I lived in a world of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. We “learned” that the Japanese were short, yellow non-human monsters with buck teeth, very thick glasses and swords. They believed their Emperor was God. They were not only the enemy but the other, alien, and nothing like us. Our soldiers were told to “Zap a Jap.” There were more than 70, 000 American residents of Japanese ancestry, living in the USA; They were very quickly incarcerated in internment camps. (See another excellent novel: Snow Falling on Cedars.(1) After four years and numerous “Iwo Jima’s” purchased with the shortened lives of 60 million people (3% of the World’s population) , “we taught the ‘Japs’ a lesson” by dropping atom bombs on them. We won The War! My uncle came back from The War, when I was about twelve, with the pistol and sword from a Japanese officer, for me, as war trophies. I never thought about the man who had carried that sword for his country.

About twenty years later, I was stationed in Hawaii and lived on the banks of Pearl Harbor with numerous neighbors of Japanese ancestry. These genuine people, I found, got married, taught school, or were shopkeepers or nurses. They had babies whom they wanted to send to college to become doctors, social workers or artists. I traveled to Japan three times including Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara. I found beautiful people, in a beautiful country, who appreciated the tea ceremony and were masters at arraigning flowers. They loved Levi jeans and Les Paul guitars! They were neat as pins and they moved efficiently, with purpose, through exceptionally clean streets. There were no little yellow monsters.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a remarkable, very personal, intensely human story. The story is a life of one person, a little girl with the pseudo-name Chiyo, surviving, just like our small lives, except for the nation in which she found herself. The author says that this was a dictated autobiography, told in the first person from her diary entries. Chiyo was a child of the second family of an old fisherman. When her mother died, she was sold to an okiya, a Geisha house, where she was an indentured servant. We follow Chiyo from pre-pubescence to the end of her life, to New York City, where she has become the proprietor of a Japanese Tea-house. We share her fears, the turmoil of her adolescence and the transformational experiences of a young woman. She passes through the similar transient victories, disappointments and losses that are experienced by American girls/ women. (There was more than one Chiyo in my hometown. There was an orphanage near my school, and the orphans were my classmates. They sat next to us, in class, wearing our cast off clothes.) Through long, numerous, demeaning and awkward periods, Chiyo finally maneuvers into a yearned-for relationship with a mentor, “The Chairman”, (a married father and, and subsequently, the father of her illegitimate son).

The Western mind thinks of sex when the word Geisha appears. Physical intimacy is only one arrow in the quiver of a Geisha and not nearly the first. The required performance and entertainment skills of the Geisha are infinitely greater than that of ladies-of- the-night, who are far more numerous. The Geisha is a specialist in treating significant stress and fatigue. The first Geishas were male artists. It is their responsibility to orchestrate a room into one full of beauty. The Geisha learns to make herself idealized in appearance, with perfect makeup, with perfectly fixed hair, in order to exude peace with a pleasant facial expression of flat affect. She is meticulously dressed, by a professional dresser, in magnificent, expensive kimonas (each unique), She is to appear to be a life-sized, beautiful, perfect doll. She must cultivate the perfect salubrious understated conversation to promote healing.

The story, of course, includes sexual content that is necessary for completeness, but it is subordinate to the rich narrative of the personal, private feelings of one woman. The ladder out from her situation is the opportunity to become a Geisha and become sponsored by a Donna, a wealthy man. Becoming a Geisha is an infrequent and cherished chance to escape base servitude. Becoming a Geisha is an artistic achievement that requires particular schooling and intense mentoring, and no small amount of determination. She suffers through the lies and harassment of her competitors. Having become an apprentice Geisha, she assumes a new identity, Sayuri. Geishas are a high stakes sorority with an elaborate pecking order. The Geisha must be, at all times, perfect while her life and love are sacrificed to give men, who choose her, absolute psychological, and sometimes physical, pleasure.

There is a painful episode, which will leave you in tears. When, in her middle teens, she has a “Mizuage” where very wealthy men bid enormous sums of money to the Head of The Okiya for the privilege of deflowering Chiyo/ Sayuri. She is given little preparation or understanding. The winner is a wealthy physician, no less, who, with studied detachment and without the smallest token of empathy, he robs from Chiyo this unique passage in her life.

What is conveyed is the sameness of her life with ours, the recognition of the universality of “child-ness”, of the “coming of age”, the mere dreams, being bullied, the deceptions, and the barriers in the journey for a chosen partner. This is a Shakespearean drama with a twist of Pygmalion (2) illustrating the history and sociology of the Japanese culture, in mid-Twentieth Century, where the setting and scenery are foreign to us , but the human souls, emotions, dreams and trials are the same as ours.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a must read for anyone who appreciates beauty. The irony of the story is its paradoxical play on the complexities of manmade beauty.”

All life is one. There is no them; there’s only Us.

Revised September 10, 2015

Charles Clanton Rogers, AB, MD, FACR   Emeritus Professor

Thank you for “Flying Zebra”  If you Like this, consider hitting my reblog  button or Share on FB.

Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden, Barnes and Noble, 1997 and Audiobooks

(1) Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson, Barnes and Noble, 1999

(2) Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw, a play, London, 1913.

16 thoughts on “Blogger’s GPS – Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha

  1. clanton1934 says:

    September 10, I just learned that Janice Wald of “Mostly Blogging”, just named The Rogers Post as a “Best Link of the Week”. (One of). I feel like a road show that made it to “Broadway”! Give my regards to 42nd Street …..
    You are too kind, Janice
    c

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bbnewsab says:

    A very busy day for me. So my comment(s) will be delayed.

    But in the meantime I hope other followers of your wonderful blog, Kung Karl, take their chance to be the first one to comment on the book (and author) you just reviewed and, not least, the skilful, warm and heartfelt style of reviewing that I would describe as one of your most valuable and distinguished trademarks here on the web (and probably IRL as well).

    And nota bene! This trademark of yours seem to have been observed, AT LAST, by other bloggers as well. (Not only by your special fan club here in Sweden.)

    I just read elsewhere, that your blog is mentioned and described as one of “The best links of the week”.

    And here’s the motivation: Charles Rogers, from The Rogers Post, wrote a series called “Blogger GPS”. His post What Drives a Writer is one of the articles in that series. First, Charles discusses inspiration for writing offered by people from all walks of life. Then, he explains the various stages of writing using creative metaphors.

    I just want to add: Congratulations. And jubilations. And time for celebration! Maybe you should join Cliff Richards in this song, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=us3dQ0nnlHY ?

    Now it’s back to business for me. See you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. clanton1934 says:

      bbnewsab, you have been and continue to feed me ideas and feed my ego. You are too kind! But just like when feeds a stray dog, we will keep coming back for more. K

      Liked by 1 person

  3. bbnewsab says:

    Inspirer is another good epithet to use in order to describe your pleasant personality, Kung Karl!

    You stand out in many ways!

    Now, I unfortunetaly have to leave your blog building. See you tomorrow, Karl!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bbnewsab says:

    Of your book reviews so far I consider this one to be the best one. Here you loom a web consisting of memories taken both from the book in question and retrieved from your own life’s, and brain’s, memory bank.

    That gives your review special vibrating and dimensional powers.

    Now I wonder: Do you see the same thing as I do, Kung Karl?

    At least I can see and imagine some similarities with Oliver Sacks here.

    He also liked to loom a web consisting of memories from his own life while writing about others.

    Yes, Karl, I know you dislike being mentioned and praised in the same sentence as Dr. Sacks, but nevertheless i feel an urge to make that comparison. You have a lot in common with the unrivalled Dr. Sacks.

    Both he and you, Kung Karl, will by future generations be remembered as men of great wisdom. Therefore I recommend both you, and your blog followers/readers, to ponder what’s to be found in this essay-like article: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/feb/21/speak-memory/ .

    In short, all memoirs should be taken with a grain of salt (maybe sometimes with more than just one grain of salt).

    BTW, in that same essay you can also read about Helen Keller, a woman with an extraordinary life.

    But the main message of that essay is: Memories are unreliable. That goes for both biographers and autobiographers. The borderline between fact and fiction, between reality and imagination, is thin like a razor blade.

    But on the other hand, Igor Starvinsky once said: Lesser artists borrow [with full awareness], great artists steal (perhaps without knowing it). So almost everything in a narrative (or self-narrative) should be taken cum grano salis.

    Speaking of Igor Stravinsky, he often had a strong striking power in what he wanted to communicate.

    Here’s another of my favorite Stravinsky quotes: “Harpists spend 90 percent of their lives in the symphony orchestra tuning their harps and 10 percent playing out of tune.”

    I hope there aren’t any harpists to be found among your followers, Karl, or else I have to seek shelter immediately. :o)

    But a look at my watch now also tells me it’s time to take a break from the web. It’s time for supper for us living in the West European time zone.

    As always, it is a pleasure to meet you here on your blog, Karl. See you later, alligator! :o)

    Like

  5. clanton1934 says:

    I am most grateful for your very generous and encouraging review of the review. Memoirs are little histories. And as you infer memoirs is a history of the reviewer as well. as of the author. Everyone should be reminded that “fiction” is a particular tool for presenting “truth” in a more efficient vehicle. The “Iliad”, the “Odessey”, Dante’s “Inferno” and, may, I say, some highly regarded ecclesiastical literature, uses fictional constructs to convey, what the author see as “Truths” (Obama’s Teachable Moments). Few scholars would say the “Book of Job” was a factual account of a historical event. (Many biblical scholars see The Book of Genesis as Poetry with a purpose) Thhe Book of Job

    was a parable with a lesson. We must not confuse “fiction” with “deception”. Those who wish to deceive will employ any vehicle they find convenient. (I keep my TV turned off most of the time)
    BTW we’ve had 15 Countries check in to “Let’s Play Geography” KK

    Liked by 1 person

  6. clanton1934 says:

    Now 18 (counting all check-ins for the last one week. KK

    Liked by 1 person

  7. bbnewsab says:

    Memoirs are a genre that can be better understood if you know how unreliable our memories are. In his essay – see my link in an earlier comment – Dr. Sacks cites the neuroscientist Gerald M. Edelman, who is known to speak of the process of sensory perceiving and processing as “creating” memories, and remembering (retriving memories) as a process of “recreating” or “recategorizing” memories.

    Of great interest should also be theories about how we tend to create our self-narratives (internal autobiographies). Here’s a good article focusing that kind of aspects: http://aeon.co/magazine/philosophy/the-dangerous-idea-that-life-is-a-story/ .

    “Of course” Dr. Sacks is mentioned also in that essay. :o)

    Anyhow, Kung Karl, I, too, am most grateful for not only your impressive blog posts as such (they really take book reviews on the web to a higher level), but also for comments like that one you just wrote and now can be seen above this comment of mine.

    If you and I – hopefully other followers soon want to join our newly set up Kung Karl & Prince Valiant Royal Choir – continue in this manner, this blog could become a Mecca for book lovers in general and author wanna-bes (in a non-pejorative sense!) specifically.

    No wonder at all that you are so successful in attracting followers from all around the world, Kung Karl!.

    Being able to read books and understand their plot or their story told – i.e.
    literacy – unites people.

    Illiteracy is the same as lack of knowledge, a hotbed for suspicious thoughts and even paranoia.

    Maybe you one day will be known as Kung Karl, the Peacemaker och Bridgebuilder. Not many kings deserve that kind of epithets. // Prince Val

    Like

  8. bbnewsab says:

    15 different countris – not a bad number at all.

    And 18 countries all over the world – that’s really super.

    You’re doing a very good job, Kung Karl!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. clanton1934 says:

      That is WE are doing. I was limping in Likes & Follows before you championed me. KK

      Liked by 1 person

  9. bbnewsab says:

    If this comment has already been published, then please delete the duplicate. I submitted the following comment just a couple of minutes ago, but it didn’t turn up in your comment field.

    Anyhow, I wrote:

    Memoirs are a genre that can be better understood if you know how unreliable our memories are. In his essay – see my link in an earlier comment – Dr. Sacks cites the neuroscientist Gerald M. Edelman, who is known to speak of the process of sensory perceiving and processing as “creating” memories, and remembering (retriving memories) as a process of “recreating” or “recategorizing” memories.

    Of great interest should also be theories about how we tend to create our self-narratives (internal autobiographies). Here’s a good article focusing that kind of aspects: http://aeon.co/magazine/philosophy/the-dangerous-idea-that-life-is-a-story/ .

    “Of course” Dr. Sacks is mentioned also in that essay. :o)

    Anyhow, Kung Karl, I, too, am most grateful for not only your impressive blog posts as such (they really take book reviews on the web to a higher level), but also for comments like that one you just wrote and now can be seen above this comment of mine.

    If you and I – hopefully other followers soon want to join our newly set up Kung Karl & Prince Valiant Royal Choir – continue in this manner, this blog could become a Mecca for book lovers in general and author wanna-bes (in a non-pejorative sense!) specifically.

    No wonder at all that you are so successful in attracting followers from all around the world, Kung Karl!.

    Being able to read books and understand their plot or their story told – i.e.
    literacy – unites people.

    Illiteracy is the same as lack of knowledge, a hotbed for suspicious thoughts and even paranoia.

    Maybe you one day will be known as Kung Karl, the Peacemaker och Bridgebuilder. Not many kings deserve that kind of epithets. // Prince Val

    Like

    1. clanton1934 says:

      I I just found 2 of your long remarks parked in My WP spams catche.Ill try to send hem back to you

      Like

    2. clanton1934 says:

      This was in my spam catche

      Like

  10. bbnewsab says:

    Can you see my longer comment, Kung Karl? I’ve made two tries, but still I can’t see it published? Very strange indeed.

    Like

    1. clanton1934 says:

      Yes. I just copied them and sent them to you at Yahoo

      Like

    2. clanton1934 says:

      I have had many interruptions in digital service in last 24 hours. I had to reinstall 2 apps and reconnect with my network KK

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Food for Poetryy

eat, sip, travel, click, pen down poetry = Helps best reflect on life !

The Wine Wankers

G’day, you’re at the best wine blog ever! We're all about wine; without the wankery.

Faraday's Candle

It's an amazing world of science...let's go exploring!

しまやん徒然旅日記

(旧・しまやん香港アジア支局) 人生は旅のすべて、日々を綴っていきます。

L.T. Garvin

Eclectic blog: short fiction, poetry, humor, occasional dreams and wild book schemes.

autumnacorn

hand knits + patterns inspired by nature

Exploring the history of prisoner health

Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000

Fiction All Day

Writing and Life ~ by David Ben-Ami

Logical Quotes

Logical and Inspirational quotes

A Narcissist Writes Letters, To Himself

A Hopefully Formerly Depressed Human Vows To Practice Self-Approval

Leonard Durso

"Literature is language charged with meaning." Ezra Pound

%d bloggers like this: