Reading is an important part of writing. Reading instructs, and reading inspires. I’m rarely without a book. I love reading at home. I also love reading on the road, where I spend a lot of time. If you ever feel a bit of writer’s block, reading a good book will always get the creative energy flowing again. Just like the tennis player who gets better by playing with stronger players, I like reading writers who challenge me to be a better writer.
I write romance, and I tend to read romance. However, my notion of what counts as a romance is capacious, and I definitely count the lushly conceived Memoirs of a Geisha and The Far Pavilions in the category. Although not a romance, I recently read The Art of Seduction, and it is nothing if not instructive!
Need a reason to read a romance? Check out my thoughts about why romances make us happy.
I’m excited to share this new series, What I’m Reading, with you. I hope you’ll find that some of my picks will open up new reading avenues for you.
What are you reading these days?
Memoirs of a Geisha
Summary from Amazon:
A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel tells with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha.
Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it.
In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.
Last week I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, which was first published in 1997 and which I missed back then. I can assure my readers that it has stood the test of time. It is wonderful!
The story is the first-person narrated account of how the young girl, Sakamoto Chiyo, becomes the geisha, Nitta Sayuri.
Note: the word geisha comes from the Japanese word gei for ‘art’, meaning that a geisha is a kind of artist. It is in no way a synonym for a high-class prostitute.
The world of the geisha that Golden presents to us is amazing for its detail. We learn of the famous geisha district, Gion, in Kyoto in the years before, during and after World War II. I don’t want to spoil any of this beautiful story by revealing plot elements or geisha customs. I can only find the word ‘fascinating’ to describe it!
The main emotional affect is that of yearning, namely Sayuri’s yearning for the man she loves and strives to find a way to be with until nearly the very end of the story.
I am contemplating watching the movie, and I can’t decide whether I want to be treated to the visual beauties of that world or to keep my own images of it, which are extremely vivid.
Gigi by Colette
Summary from Amazon:
Two volumes of Colette’s most beloved works, with a new Introduction by Judith Thurman.
Perhaps Colette’s best-known work, Gigi is the story of a young girl being raised in a household more concerned with success and money than with the desires of the heart. But Gigi is uninterested in the dishonest society life she observes all around her and remains exasperatingly Gigi. The tale of Gigi’s success in spite of her anxious family is Colette at her liveliest and most entertaining. Written during the same period as Gigi, Julie de Carneilhan, based on Colette’s last years with her second husband, focuses on a contest of wills between Julie, an elegant woman of forty, and her ex-husband. Chance Acquaintances, a novella, involves an invalid wife, her philandering husband, and a music-hall dancer whose odd meeting at a French spa affects and indelibly marks each one of their lives.
I figured I’d give the Western version of the professional seducer a try, which in France once revolved around the demi-monde and the world of the demi-mondaine of la belle époque, namely the late 19th century . So Gigi, first published in 1944, came to mind. I even decided to read it in French, just to get the real feel for the language.
Well. This story certainly hasn’t stood the test of time, mainly because it’s … kinda simple, which is to say simplistic. Of course almost any treatment might have come off badly in the wake of Memoirs of a Geisha, truly a tough act to follow. But I think Gigi would have been uninteresting enough on its own.
I think the movie version with Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier singing “Zank ‘eavens for leetle girls” did a terrific job of making a less than stellar novella sing and dance.
Categorised in: What I'm Reading
This post was written by Julie Andresen