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Geisha: A Life
ISBN 0743444299 / 9780743444293 / 0-7434-4429-9
Publisher Washington Square Press
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Now in her 50s, Mineko Iwasaki was one of the most famed geishas of her generation (and the chief informant for Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha). Her ascent was difficult, not merely because of the hard, endless training she had to undergo--learning how to speak a hyper-elevated dialect of Japanese and how to sing and dance gracefully while wearing a 44-pound kimono atop six-inch wooden sandals--but also because many of the elaborate, self-effacing rules of the art went against her grain. A geisha "is an exquisite willow tree who bends to the service of others," she writes. "I have always been stubborn and contrary. And very, very proud." And playful, too: one of the funniest moments in this bittersweet book describes a disastrous encounter with the queen of England and her all-too-interested husband.
Revealing the secrets of the geisha's "art of perfection," this graceful memoir documents a disappearing world. --Gregory McNamee [via]