When one thinks of Anaïs Nin’s Henry and June, Delta of Venus and Little Birds, one thinks of her “blockbusters,” her most popular and bestselling works, titles that put her on the map. Two of the three books were made into Hollywood films, and Henry and June became notorious because of its first-ever NC-17 rating. The two volumes of erotica, Delta of Venus and Little Birds, propelled Nin’s reputation as a groundbreaking feminine erotica writer. While Nin wrote all of the material in these volumes, the man who made them bona fide successes was John Ferrone, Nin’s editor.
Nin met Ferrone in 1969, and by 1973 he was her fulltime editor at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Nin was so impressed with his editing that as she gave him 850 pages of raw erotica, written some thirty years prior for a dollar a page, she gave him the following instructions: “Do anything you like with it. I trust you.” Ferrone wrote “The Making of Delta of Venus” for Volume 7 of A Café in Space in which he describes the great lengths he had to go to in order to sort out the entangled and complicated stories, to craft them into top-notch literary collections.
When Ferrone was editing Henry and June in 1985, he clashed with Nin’s “West Coast Husband” and Trustee of The Anaïs Nin Trust over how the book would appear—Rupert Pole wanted none of Nin’s writing changed, whereas Ferrone recognized the need for significant alterations in order to produce a commercially successful book. Their letters were so incendiary that after the book was done, Ferrone never edited another Nin book. For more on this, read Ferrone’s “The Making of Henry and June the Book” in Volume 4 of A Café in Space. The exchanges are legendary.
I was saddened to learn that John Ferrone died on April 10, 2016 in Old Bridge, New Jersey, due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease. There will be a memorial service at the Most Holy Redeemer Church, 133 Amboy Rd., Matawan, NJ on May 24 at 11:30. For more information, visit mostholyredeemerchurch.org.
Podcast 15 is devoted to John Ferrone and tells the story of how he was instrumental in helping me with the most important project I’d ever undertaken at that point—the editing of 1,600 pages of handwritten diary pages into Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947, the first such diary in nearly twenty years.
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