The Novelist Likes the Film

From left, Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li star in the current film
From left, Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li star in the current film "Memoirs of a Geisha." (By David James)
Monday, December 26, 2005

The criticism of experts in the geisha world, as recounted in Sarah Kaufman's Dec. 15 Style article, "Hollywood's Faulty 'Memoirs'; Experts on Japanese Tradition Are Bedeviled by Film's Details," had little effect on the pride I feel in Rob Marshall's beautiful and moving film based upon my novel "Memoirs of a Geisha."

While I was writing the novel, I struggled to get the details right, but no storyteller or journalist is ever exact enough for an expert. One geisha, for example, was enraged that I'd had my protagonist tie a man's shoes for him, something a geisha apparently would never do.

It's worth bearing in mind that "Hamlet" makes poor Danish history and that "Lawrence of Arabia" grossly oversimplifies the politics and cultures of the Middle East.

I don't mean to say that drama should never concern itself with factual accuracy, only that a work of art must be judged by a higher standard.

ARTHUR GOLDEN

Brookline, Mass.


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