I finished Reading Lolita in Tehran, and it’s in my top 3 of the year. I absolutely loved it. So many beautiful thoughts about fiction, and the potential it has in our lives. I don’t have the words at the moment to express all my thoughts on the subject, I need to keep thinking about it.
Today I read Geisha of Gion, by Mineko Iwasaki. She is the geisha that Memoir of a Geisha was written about, and this book is her response to the falsehoods she feels that that book propogated. I can see why she felt the need to do so- the two books hardly have a connection to each other. I read Memoir a number of years ago, but I could hardly believe that they were about the same person. I feel like I should read Memoir again to actually compare, but I also feel a weird loyalty to Iwasaki- if she was so upset by the book I feel like I shouldn’t read it again. Ah well, we’ll see if it makes it back to the top of the pile.
But it does bring up an interesting connection to Reading Lolita. In Iran the women in the reading class felt that they were forced to live a fiction, that they could not be true to themselves, and that their every movement was politically charged. The geisha also live in a world where every movement is deep with meaning, and Iwasaki expresses that she feels that she has to act in a way that is not true to herself, at least in the beginning. But more than that, she had a fiction created of her life through this other book. It’s just an interesting mix of fictions and narratives happening. And both women, Nasifi and Iwasaki, felt the need to free themselves from the fictions created for/about them by writing their own narratives of their lives.
I really enjoyed Geisha of Gion, and felt as much amazement at the reality of her life and it’s complete difference from mine, as I did about Nafisi’s account of life in Iran. The incredible amount of stress and responsibility that she took upon herself at such a young age is overwhelming, but the grace and optimism she maintained is inspiring.
Ok, a followup to that previous thought about Iwasaki being upset about the fiction made about her life. As the comment posted about this post stated, since it was fiction, obviously it wasn’t going to match up to her life. She knew if was going to be a fictionalized account going in, and would have to know things would be changed, and it would be naive of her to expect different. I agree with that. I think that her major problem with the book however, (as evidenced in her author’s note), isn’t that he took liberties with her life story, but that he changed the point of it. Memoir panders to the fiction that others have created about geisha, that they are part of a larger sex trade, that it’s terribly oppressive to the women involved. Iwasaki makes it clear that geisha are seperate from prostitutes, that they serve a completly different purpose, and that she enjoyed her career. He takes the grace of her career and her art, and turns it into something sordid. His fiction doesn’t have a core of reality, and I think thats what spurred her to write her own book.
Just Finished: Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki
Next Up: The Funnies by J. Robert Lennon