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Wine & Book Group Pick for March '06


Book groups who have been meeting for a few years will all have read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (Vintage) when it first became available in January 1999. But for those of you who are just starting out, this book remains forefront in our minds with the stunning adaptation to film that garnered Oscar awards for Best Art Direction, and Best Costume. Our partners at Women and Wine have matched delicious wines to sip and taste at your next book group meeting.


March 06, 2006

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  • About the Author

    Arthur Golden was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was educated at Harvard College, where he received a degree in art history, specializing in Japanese art. In 1980 he earned an M.A. in Japanese history from Columbia University, where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. Following a summer in Beijing University, he worked in Tokyo, and, after returning to the United States, earned an M.A. in English from Boston University. He resides in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children. Memoirs of a Geisha is his first novel. —RandomHouse 

    According to Arthur Golden's absorbing first novel, we learn that the word "geisha" is not synonymous with the Western word "prostitute." It means "artisan" or "artist." To capture the geisha experience in the art of fiction, Golden trained as long and hard as any geisha who must master the arts of music, dance, clever conversation, crafty battle with rival beauties, and cunning seduction of wealthy patrons.

    The story goes that Arthur met a man in Tokyo who was the illegitimate offspring of a renowned businessman and a geisha. This meeting inspired Golden to spend 10 years researching both Japanese and English language books for every detail of geisha culture. He came up with an 800-page manuscript that he intended to pare down.

    When his grandmother arranged a meeting between him and a renowned Japanese geisha by the name of Mineko Iwasakiin in Kyoto's geisha district, who had retired at the age of 42, Arthur's interview became a friendship.  

    When asked how he was able to learn so much from Mineko, as geishas are traditionally reticent and discreet, he replied that she had been involved with Japan's great artists and writers during her career, and must have recognized characteristics in him that reminded her of their ambitions and struggles. He writes,

    "As an American man of the 1990s writing about a Japanese woman of the 1930s, I needed to cross three cultural divides -- man to woman, American to Japanese, and present to past. Actually, I see a fourth divide as well, because geisha dwell in a sub-culture so peculiar that even a Japanese woman of the 1930s might have considered it a challenge to write about such a world."

    Next came another 750-page draft before he felt confident enough to switch from third-person perspective to the personal first-person perspective. The final book resulted from ten years of this labor of love, and it has captured the essence of this little understood world and its disappearing traditions.

    Further Links Print these discussion guide questions and use as a jumping off point for discussion.

    KCRW Bookwork Interview: Michael Silverblatt is Los Angeles' distinctive radio host who interviews both renowned and emerging writers and poets.

    Immortal Geisha: A website dedicated to all things geisha. The pages with stylized artwork reproduced from geisha programs in the '50s are beautiful.

    Japanese Music: Website showing various forms of music, from ancient to new.

    Memoirs of a Geisha: Sony Pictures website.'s picks for this book

    Visit our partners at to purchase these delicious wines to taste and compare notes for your book group discussion. Chosen especially to match Asian cuisine in startling and pleasing ways, like Sayuri herself.


    • Bisson Prosecco Colli dei Trevigiani 2003 at an affordable $12.99 a bottle, "is fresh and vibrant with notes of honey and citrus, like a perfectly placed squirt of lemon on your sashimi."
    • Domaine Albert Mann Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Alsace 2002 at $28.99 a bottle, "Think delicate and feminine yet steely, like the heroine of Memoirs of a Geisha.”
    • Domaine Hudelot-Noellat Vosne-Romanee Bourgogne 2002 that you can indulge with $59.00 a bottle. "This elegant French Pinot Noir, you bet. With its soft tannins, cashmere texture and round supple red cherry fruit, it works with ponzu and soy sauce and such oily fish as mackerel and salmon belly."

    Go to the BookBuffet homepage and enter "wine and book picks" to get all the previous pairings of books with wines. Or simply click on the article links below:



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