Subject of best-selling novel sues author
By Hillel Italie/AP
At a 1999 reading of his million-selling novel Memoirs of a Geisha in Providence, Rhode Island, Arthur Golden allegedly told the audience the inspiration for his novel, Mineko Iwasaki, was proud of having set a record for the amount of money for which her virginity was sold approximately $850,000.
Now, shes suing. In papers filed on April 24 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Iwasaki accused Golden and his publisher of violating a verbal confidentiality agreement and distorting her life story in promotional events.
Iwasaki, who has been openly critical of Golden, alleges her reputation has been tarnished by his citing her as his primary authority on geisha life, and then inaccurately portraying many of the customs, ceremonies and rituals she described. She says Golden wrongly declared she was sold into the geisha world, and that her virginity was auctioned to the highest bidder.
Golden has said there was no confidentiality agreement and that she agreed to let him tape their discussions, during which she spoke of losing her virginity.
According to the court papers, Iwasaki is seeking an amount no less than an appropriate percentage of what she believes is $10 million in sales for the novel. Iwasakis attorney, Dorothy Weber, says a fair basis for royalties would be 50 percent of however much of the book relates to her client.
Also cited as defendants are Goldens publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, and Random House Inc., Knopfs parent company. Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House Inc., said April 24, that the allegations were totally without merit.
Applebaum said Golden would not make any comment until he was able to review the lawsuit with his attorneys.
Published to great acclaim in 1997, Goldens novel documents a geishas rise from a Japanese fishing village to life in high society. Golden, a Harvard and Columbia graduate who spent several years researching the book, interviewed Iwasaki a number of times in 1992 and has thanked her often.
She turned my understanding of the life of a geisha on its head, Golden once said.
The novel has sold millions of copies, Applebaum said. Steven Spielberg will reportedly direct a film version.
Iwasaki, now 50 and a resident of Kyoto, retired in 1980. She says she only met with Golden on the condition that her and her familys identity remained protected. There is no written contract.
Golden has said he originally wrote a third-person story that included a geisha as a secondary character. After interviewing Iwasaki for background, he wrote a first-person narrative about a geisha, relying often on what he learned from Iwasaki.
In the course of my extensive research, I am indebted to one individual above all others ... Mineko Iwasaki, Golden wrote in the books acknowledgments.