Anais Nin on Gore Vidal
When Anaïs Nin met the 20 year old Gore Vidal in 1945, she found in him a kindred soul, one who understood her and her writing, which was something she rarely experienced. She was initially swept off her feet by his dymanic, self-assured, and elegant demeanor, and the emotional bond between them sprang forth very quickly. They grew to love each other, but since Vidal was homosexual, it was a torn love, one that could not be fulfilled physically. Nin and Vidal supported and inspired each other’s work, and Vidal, who worked as an editor for Dutton, was able to arrange Nin’s first contract with an American publisher.
Gore Vidal quite famously derided Nin in his work and in his comments after they had split, and Nin was not kind to Vidal’s work, characterizing it as pedestrian and beneath his capabilities. Was the vitriol a true reflection of their feelings for each other, or was it a result of the great pain of not being able to be true lovers? That is a question that begs to be examined.
Below are Nin’s first comments about Vidal in her soon-to-be-released unexpurgated 1940s diary:
November 19, 1945
Kimon Friar asked me to go to his lecture on love. At the Y.M.H.A. I was in a sad mood, so I dressed as Mary Stuart, who had her head cut off by a jealous Queen Elizabeth, in a tight black dress with long sleeves half covering the hand, a heart shaped black hat edged with pearls, and a white veil. Kimon lectured at the head of a long table. At the foot of the table one chair was empty, and I took it (Hugo had to sit behind me). Next to me sat a handsome Lieutenant, who, after I had leaned across him to speak to Maya Deren, spoke to me. “Are you French? I am a descendent of troubadour Vidal.” … He is luminous and manly. He is … not nebulous, but clear and bright. He talks, is active, is alert and poised. [H]e has [a] tall and slender body, … clear skin, and [a] full, sensual mouth. He is twenty years old. He is one of the editors at Dutton, and his own novel is appearing in the spring. He knows Under a Glass Bell and had guessed who I was. He asked when he might visit me. I said I would be home that evening or on Tuesday evening. He said he would come on Tuesday as he was not free that evening. But after a moment, he said: “I’d like to come this evening if you don’t mind.”
So four hours after meeting him, he walked into my studio. … His voice is rich and warm; he is intuitive. There is too much to tell.
When Gore Vidal says he will be the President of the United States, I believe him. He walks in easily, not dream-fogged, not unreal, not bemused … His eyes are … clear, open, hazel. They are French eyes. His face is square … He came Sunday afternoon. Then this evening we sat at the Number One bar and talked. His father is a millionaire. His grandfather was Senator Gore. His mother left them when he was ten to marry someone else. “She is Latin looking, vivacious, handsome, her hair and eyes like yours,” he said, “beloved of many.”
The boy-man is lonely. He rejects homosexual advances. He says: “In the army, I live like a monk.” He is writing his novel. He is clear minded, but emotionally confused and vulnerable. …
Will his French troubadour lineage stir in his memory some recognition of Anaïs, whose name comes from a little Greek town in the south of France? I feel yes, unconsciously. He has the courage to say: “May I come?” He telephones, he can command a taxi. Will he dare? I feel the bond, less than with Bill, but one that suits my present self better, for I am returning to my aristocracy and my pleasures, and leaving my bohemianism behind.
Gore talks about his childhood: “When my mother left me I became objective…I live detached from my present life…at home our relationships are casual…my father married a young model…I like casual relationships…When you are involved you get hurt. I do not want to be involved ever…”
Mutely … Gore’s sudden softness envelops me.
December 5, 1945
Gore is a lieutenant at Mitchell Field. He comes in on weekends, and Sunday he came to see me. We had a fine talk, lightly serious, gracefully sad. He read me from Richard II. “Why was he killed?” I asked. “Because he was weak. I am not weak,” said Gore.
No, he is not weak, but he might need Joan of Arc to place him on his throne. I told him his arthritic hand was due to a psychic cramp for writing about an ordinary hero when he himself is no ordinary young man. I teased him, touched upon his depression. His handwriting is chaotic and unstable. He took me to dinner.
Today he called me up: “This is troubadour Vidal.” His voice is lovely, musical …
December 10, 1945
Gore came, and we slid easily into a sincere, warm talk …
He takes me to dinner at the Lafayette. All the society mothers look for him, for their cocktails and dances. The debutantes write him letters: “Why are you so detached?” As we walk, I take his arm. This gesture has infinite repercussions upon the long distance range of his being. When I relinquish it, a moment later he extends it back and says: “Mon bras?”
… [He] is … adequate, answers all I say, and holds his ground. When we return home (he came at four and left at midnight), he makes me laugh with the most amazingly well-acted pastiches of Roosevelt, Churchill, a southern senator, a petitioner at the House of Commons, etc. … [N]ow, I abandon my writing, my need of the doctor, to write about him because I enjoy his presence. I enjoy being allowed into his secret self. His very far apart, clear hazel eyes open into mine: “I give you the true Vidal, a supreme gift.” Leaving, he says: “I’ll come on Wednesday. Don’t let anyone else come. Send Hugo away.”
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