A comfortless portrait of the flip side of the geisha world, where one is more slave than courtesan. A rock and a hard...

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A GEISHA

The deeply unromantic life of a low-rent geisha.

Some work the high-end world of Kyoto and Tokyo, and others work out of cheesy hot-spring resorts, their fare a stream of small-time businessmen, factory owners, and petty gangsters. Such was Masuda's lot back in the 1940s, when this rudimentarily trained geisha served more as an indentured servant and prostitute than an artful consort. Nonetheless, it was a step up from her stint as a nursemaid, beginning at age six, when she subsisted on leftovers and was mortified, tormented, and slapped about by adults and kids alike. In need of money, her mother called Masuda home and promptly sold her to a geisha house when she was 12. This unvarnished account, first published 45 years ago and still in print in Japan, does not paint a pretty picture. “Geisha's pride wasn't worth a broken straw sandal,” writes Masuda, who made the mistake of falling in love and was then tossed out by the patron, who had bought her from the house. Turned away by her family, she reunited with her younger brother (“My dreams, my affections, they were all for him. He was my reason for living”), and together they struggled to survive in postwar Japan. In stark prose as fateful as a Greek tragedy, she captures a wholly dreadful existence hustling a few illegally foraged potatoes to a starving population for a few yen. When her brother contracted tuberculosis, Masuda intended to return to prostitution to pay for his penicillin, but he threw himself from the hospital roof rather than let that happen. She stayed hungry and harassed, thanks to hypocritical anti-prostitution laws passed in the ’50s (and taken to pieces here), until this account shocked Japanese readers with its bitter taste of grinding poverty and its revelations about the geisha world’s dark side.

A comfortless portrait of the flip side of the geisha world, where one is more slave than courtesan. A rock and a hard place—and enough to give readers gray hair.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-231-12950-5

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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