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'Geisha' Author to Lecture at Northwestern

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April 11, 2006 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Blockbuster novelist Arthur Golden, author of “Memoirs of a Geisha,” will read from his own works Monday, April 17, and lecture about the making of his best-selling novel Tuesday, May 2, at Northwestern University. Golden, writer-in-residence at the University’s Center for the Writing Arts, begins teaching creative writing to a select group of Northwestern undergraduates later this month.

Golden’s first novel, “Memoirs of a Geisha,” became a literary sensation upon publication in 1998 and was released as a motion picture last year. His April 17 reading will take place at 5:30 p.m.; his May 2 lecture will take place at 4 p.m. Both events, which are free and open to the public, will take place in Room 108 of Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road, on the Evanston campus.

Although Golden was termed an “overnight success” after his compelling story of a geisha was published, “Memoirs of a Geisha” took him a decade to research and write. A Harvard art history major with a specialty in Japanese art and a master’s degree in Japanese history, Golden began writing a novel about a geisha after meeting a young man in Tokyo whose mother was a geisha and whose father was a well-known Japanese businessman.

He threw two drafts of the novel away after a different geisha agreed to talk to him about her life. Her candid revelations upended the ideas Golden had previously held about geisha life, forcing him to abandon an 800-page manuscript and start anew. He says his published novel, written in the first person, is less a biography than an invention that makes use of the experiences of his real-life source.

Golden’s next novel, which will be published this year, is set in the United States. At Northwestern, he will teach a course titled “The Art of Fiction: Weaving Together the Elements of a Story.” For further information, call the Center for Writing Arts at (847) 467-4099.