Tag Archives: book

Book/Movie About Geisha Helps Understand Japan

Destination: Japan

Book: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

I have never been to Japan. The country has always mystified me. The elaborate rituals, the complex rules for gardens and for tea ceremonies. And mostly the tradition of Geishas.”What’s with that?” this feminist wondered, as I observed movie depictions of Geishas mincing around and bowing and serving.

Because Geishas are exotic creatures to Western eyes, we tend to see more of them than of other parts of Japanese society, historic or present. By that I mean they appear in books, musicals, movies and advertisements probably more than their numbers justify. Just as gunslingers and dancehall girls represent the early 19th century western United States to large parts of the world, although plain old farm families, hardworking ranchers and miners existed in larger numbers.

At any rate, I absolutely loved the book  Memoirs of a Geisha, for giving me the kind of meaningful detail of Japanese  culture that had been glossed over by other depictions. Besides, it tells a compelling story and makes you care deeply about the characters. The book is written with such detail that I felt I had already seen all the scenes, but the movie added a few more details of Japanese architecture and fashion that I could not create in my mind.

Combined, the novel and the movie might  make me want to travel to Japan—but not to become a Geisha. Did you see the movie and read the book? Which did you prefer? Would you like to be a Geisha?

For more about Japan, see this about children’s books or this about unusual experiences in Tokyo.

Book Introduces South Africa

South Africa Barbershop
South Africa Barbershop

Destination: South Africa

Book: Khayelitsha – uMlungu in a Township by Steven Otter

A Guest post by David Lee, Go Backpacking

(While the book David recommends is definitely not a travel book, it will add deeper understanding to your travels in South Africa as Steve Otter experiences the township life as few tourists ever will.) Continue reading Book Introduces South Africa

A Book Takes Movie Walks in Paris


Paris Movie Walks by Michael Schurmann

Destination: Paris

Book: Paris Movie Walks: Ten Guided Tours Through The City of Lights! Camera! Action!, by Michael Schurmann

I was going to say “You don’t have to be a movie fan to enjoy this book.”  But who among us is NOT a movie fan? And who has seen a movie set in Paris and NOT wanted to glide right over the Seine?

It might have been the breathtaking chases of the Bourne Identity. Or perhaps you swayed to Gene Kelly’s dancing in American in Paris.  Or romance, ahh, romance, with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in Somethings Got to Give (2004) or Keven Kline and Meg Ryan in French Kiss (1995) And the camera made love to Audrey Hepburn in many Paris films and I not only wanted to BE Audrey Hepburn, but I wanted to be Audrey Hepburn IN PARIS.

I can not list all of the movies made in Paris, and even Michael Schurmann, himself an American in Paris, does not try to list every movie ever made in this popular location. There are too many.  But Schurmann’s book Paris Movie Walks give you ten ambles through neighborhoods, and each route crosses paths with several movies.

The tours cover much more than just ‘this chase scene took place on this street,’ or ‘this kiss on this bridge.’  Schurmann packs the book with value added.  Although he promises “there will be no endless lists of French monarchs and their annoying mistresses, no stories about poets and painters about whom you know little and care even less” the book does include some references to history and the usual ‘Hemingway slept here’ kind of information. Inclusion of plenty of information beyond movie sets makes the book useful to more people and makes it more useful to all readers.

The book includes

  • Tips on dining in Paris without going bankrupt. (Maxims charges €35 for a mousse au chocolat.)
  • How to adapt to French culture
  • A list of movies with Eiffel Tower shots. (Every apartment in a movie set in Paris has a view of the Eiffel Tower, he says.)
  • The evolution of the use of locations rather than studio sets, with an aside on American in Paris. (Did they or didn’t they?)
  • The student riots of the 1960s.
  • Movies with scenes in or outside the Louvre.
  • The best view (and most photographed view in movies) in Paris.

I love this book.

  1. I love the useful index that shows which of the walks show scenes from which movies.
  2. I love that each walk starts and ends at a metro stop and a metro map is included.
  3. I love the list of movies to see before you go.
  4. I love the depth of research that went into the book.

I would love it even more if the maps of each walk showed where the stops are, if the photographs had captions, and if there were not quite so many French language movies included which are unfamiliar to me. Sigh! I guess I’d better spend more time at the Loft Theater, Tucson’s foreign and indie film house.

But on balance, this is a valuable book for the movie lover traveling to Paris, or even the person who just wants to find interesting walks in the city of “Lights!” without the “..camera!action!”