Geisha Paperback – 28 Sep 2000
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In the mid-1970s, an American graduate student in anthropology joined the ranks of white-powdered geisha in Kyoto, Japan. Liza Dalby took the name Ichigiku and apprenticed in the famed Pontocho district, trailing behind "older sisters" bemused by this long-legged Westerner intent on learning their arts and customs. In Geisha, this observant ethnographer paints an intoxicating picture of the "flower and willow world" to which she gained entry. "Why are you studying geisha?" asks one slightly belligerent older sister. "Geisha are no different from anybody else." Not quite, says Dalby dryly, pointing out that geisha and wives play utterly divergent, though complementary, roles in traditional Japanese society. "Geisha are supposed to be sexy where wives are sober, artistic where wives are humdrum, and witty where wives are serious." While hardly feminists, they reap freedoms unknown to other women. Dalby illustrates broader cultural differences, too, with a million tiny details about boisterous customers, how many hundred-weight of tabi (split-toed socks) geishas go through, what defines iki (chic), why maiko (young apprentices) are drawn to the life, and what geisha wear, from the skin out. Acknowledging that her growing personal stake in the masquerade prevented objectivity, Dalby frees the reader to enjoy a fluid and fascinating look at one aspect of Japanese culture. --Francesca Coltrera
"Liza Dalby, as the only foreigner to ever have become an actual geisha, knows more about the subject than I'll ever know, and she writes about it with grace and eloquence" (Arthur Golden, author of 'Memoirs of a Geisha')
"A loving, beautifully designed tribute to one of Japan's most tantalising traditions... Geisha offers intriguing glimpses into Japanese politics, culture and history" (Newsweek)
"The authoritative work on the geisha. It is filled with facts and history, shot through with insights and understanding. Her working as a geisha, her experiencing their world, is responsible for the breadth of her understanding" (New York Times Book Review)
"Elegantly balanced...beautifully constructed...invigorating and refreshing" (Washington Post Book World)
"A meticulously researched work of scholarship, but is also a delightfully personal account of Dalby's year among the geisha. Geisha remains [Dalby's] best-known work and is the bible of geisha studies to this day" (Times Literary Supplement)
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Top Customer Reviews
I don't think Liza Dalby ever meant to become a geisha in the formal sense, she was there to do research for a dissertation or thesis of some kind on the subject. Many people have pointed out that her attending social occasions as a geisha without having years of training etc makes a mockery of the whole profession. This could not be further from the truth.
Liza Dalby writes with intelligence and emotion and provides the reader with one of the most informative works on the subject that I have encountered. She covers every subject from the history of the geishas, to the instruments they play and how they dress. The book can be quite heavy going at times, but it is worth sticking to. If you are a fan of 'Memoirs of a Geisha' (as I am), then this is certainly worth checking out.
Another book worth checking out is 'Geisha of Gion' by Mineko Iwasaki.
Unlike some other reviewers on this page, I have read and re-read this book, and frequently use it for reference. The background information about such topics as the different geisha districts in Kyoto, geisha names etc. is excellent in helping the reader's greater understanding of the subject.
I would recommend following up this book by reading the autobiography "Geisha of Gion", by Mineko Iwasaki, which is a highly personal account by the leading geisha of the 1960s, in contrast to Dalby's more objective study.
Readers, please remember that Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha" is fiction! If you are looking for "racy" fiction, full of vague details about "oriental life", this is NOT the book for you...
Its well illustrated, with many graphs and photographs which are bery useful in felping the reader visualise the geisdhas stories.
Overall however she does make many comparisons to the west and this may prove and issue when studying geisha academically.
For the casual reader it is a useful insight not just into the world of the geisha, not only japanesse culture but also into the dynamic dicipline of anthropology
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found this book very interesting and learned a lot about the world of the geisha at the time the book was written. Read morePublished 3 months ago by catsholiday
Very interesting piece of research and plenty of photos to illustrate.Published 13 months ago by Cookie
I found this book interesting and no one could take away the fact that Liza Dalby worked as a Geisha for one year. Read morePublished on 24 Feb. 2013 by babes
Geisha by Liza Dalby is an innovative insight into the world of geisha, told by the world's first ever foreign geisha, accepted into the ranks of a prestigious, "flower and willow... Read morePublished on 10 Jan. 2011 by LolitaLaura
I've been interested in geisha world for a long time. Those novels and memoirs are not enough for my hunger for this fascinating topic. Read morePublished on 8 May 2010 by Bluesky
This is a really interesting book written by an American anthropologist who went to Japan and actually become a geisha. Read morePublished on 18 Jun. 2009 by C. Ball
I originally wanted to read memoirs of a geisha by arthur golden but this book was the only one there at that time in my local library and i thought that it would be similar. Read morePublished on 9 Mar. 2009 by MaMs
In `Geisha' Liza Dalby has managed to write a book studying the lives of Geisha and how their art developed, whilst at the same time making it flow like a novel. Read morePublished on 19 July 2008 by Spider Monkey
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