Podcast 29: Anaïs Nin’s Lost World with Britt Arenander

Swedish author Britt Arenander discusses the new English language version of her Anaïs Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which is in now in print. Lost World contains more than 50 photographs, many of them vintage, of Anaïs Nin’s and Henry Miller’s favorite haunts and living quarters in and around Paris during the most interesting period of their lives. Included is a concise but thorough guide through the streets of Paris.

hotelorphila

Hotel Orphila, immortalized by August Strindberg

As Arenander says, the book was a labor of love and required a great deal of detective work to retrace Nin’s steps as she visited the places described in the 1920s and 1930s diaries. Astoundingly, most of them still exist, and some retain the ambience that Nin and Miller enjoyed some 85 years ago.

And there are surprises: Nin, shortly after moving to Paris in the 1920s, unwittingly inhabited a room at Hotel Orphila, which the writer August Strindberg made famous in the late 1800s. The brothel Nin mentions in Henry and June is still located at 32 rue Blondel and is still a brothel. The lawn furniture Arenander photographed in the yard of the famed Louveciennes house was there as early as 1910, evidenced by a rare photograph of the owner reclining on the same chaise that was photographed 80 years later. The street where Henry Miller and Alfred Perlès lived in Clichy was immortalized in a post card from 1932—which includes their apartment building.

Arenander also dispels the myth about why Nin was denied entrance to her former Louveciennes home in 1971, as revealed by a conversation with the owner, the reputed Monsieur Auzépy, the very man who allowed the house to lay empty and crumbling for decades.

LostWorld-Front-Cover

Run time: 20 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To order the print version of Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.

To order the digital version of Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.

Review of Henry Miller: The Last Days

Kraft, Barbara. Henry Miller, the Last Days, a memoir (Texas: Sky Blue Press 2016) 203 pp.

Only a few months after Anaïs Nin’s death, Barbara Kraft attended a ‘Q & A’ talk by Henry Miller, (whose work she had always admired)… This rediscovery led to Kraft writing and reading ‘An Open Letter to Henry Miller’ on an NPR station… Miller subsequently invited her to cook dinner for him, and, of course, to engage in conversation (which led to) a mutually nurturing friendship for the last two years of his life… Paul Herron, Introduction

The Open Letter to Henry Miller (1977) appears at the end of Kraft’s paean, a moving tribute that flows like a Henry Miller watercolor and echoes as one of his favorite pieces of music, Scriabin’s Sonata No. 5 in F-sharp, Op. 53.

Kraft opens with a brief summation of Henry Miller’s life and passing before she begins with her first meeting of the famous writer as one of his many rotating cook in early 1978. “A modest man, surely the most unaffected, unself-conscious human being I have ever met.”

Readers will find no need to underline, star, mar or highlight this flawless gem that radiates the illuminating facets of a self-taught man, a writer who ranks with Emerson, Thoreau and other major authors who have received their due in American literature. However, albeit Miller was read widely during his time, he did not receive the recognition and glory he deserved and still deserves.

FrontCoverEbookKraft’s meetings with Miller seem to weave his immediate life with his passing, as though they were one. In Kraft’s Dec 26, 1979 interview with Miller, he said, “Sex is not everything. It’s the last thing in a way, in one sense, compared to love. Without love one is hopeless. One can’t live without love. It’s the spiritual food that we subsist on.”

In the same interview, he said, “I’m old-fashioned and I’m glad to be old-fashioned because I think they have misinterpreted my own words.”

Miller was wed five times and fathered three children. What the reader will discern from Miller’s final days is the fact that he continued his habit of painting with canvasses spread on his ping pong table, continued to be generous by allowing strangers and family to board in his house, and continued to be a scintillating conversationalist who did not dwell in his past. In New York in the thirties before he left for Paris, he literally begged in the streets so he could eat, a habit which ended when someone tossed coins in his face, proving to him this was not the way of a writer. Yet he still needed to eat, and in Tropic of Cancer Miller describes how he sent letters to fourteen people asking if he might lunch or dine with them one day a week.

At his home in Pacific Palisades, Miller enlisted sixteen cooks who came and created a dinner for him once a week. No doubt, Barbara Kraft was his favorite, and she stood up for him when he was neglected by his caretakers and arranged for the compassionate Bill Pickerill to stay with Miller during his last weeks, ensuring someone would be there at the end.

Of his ten year affair with Anaïs Nin, Miller wondered aloud how she could have been attracted to him, and Kraft, who was a close friend of Nin during the last three years of her life, wisely answered it was because he was “so plain and down to earth.”

She added: “You rooted her. She needed your realness, your simplicity and directness. Otherwise she might have flown off into space, given her obsession with escaping anything resembling reality.”

For Henry Miller was a free spirit and a true poet. In Kraft’s memoir Anaïs Nin: The Last Days (Sky Blue Press, 2011), readers do not detect Anaïs’s great love of literature and reading. There is a focus on forgiveness for her past. Nin had a desire for fame and the love she sought in so many men who only gave her sex. There is suffering that does not exist in Henry Miller’s last days although he was deaf and blind in one eye, frail to the point he could not even hold up his head even at dinner.

But, Miller was never a complainer, never a man who bemoaned his lack of recognition. He truly loved women, and was greatly inspired his last love, the beautiful, young Brenda Venus; he never had a need of forgiveness. He was a philosopher, unlike Nin, and also a man who, like Faulkner, no doubt believed in the indomitable human spirit. One of Miller’s adages:

“Those who think with the heart see life as a tragedy while those who perceive it with their heads see it as a comedy.”

Miller called Barbara Kraft “a writer for all time.” She truly is. Despite the chaos of going through a horrendous divorce after a lengthy marriage, she was able to immerse herself in Henry Miller’s life and death. What she placed on her mirror to buoy her spirits after Miller’s quiet death on June 7, 1980, “at home in his own bed,” are Henry Miller’s own words to uplift us all:

Paradise is everywhere and every road… One can only go forward and then sideways and then up and then down…there is perpetual movement…which is circular, spiral, endless. Every man has his own destiny; the only imperative is to follow it, to accept it, no matter where it leads… Understanding is not piercing of the mystery but an acceptance of it, a living blissfully with it, in it, through and by it.

Reviewed by Rochelle Lynn Holt
rochellelynnholt.com

Podcast 23: The Diary of Anais Nin: Who Was In, Who Was Out

Fifty years ago Anaïs Nin’s decades-long struggle to escape obscurity and misunderstanding came to an explosive end when Harcourt published the first volume of The Diary of Anaïs Nin. It was an instant commercial and critical smash and propelled Nin from the shadows into the spotlight, from acult figure status to fame, at the age of 63, a status she would enjoy until her death in 1977.

The Diary is noted for its character study of Henry Miller and his wife June, as well as several other notable people, and it was done in a way that left out the intimate details of Nin’s love life, which kept her husband, family, and lovers from being hurt or scandalized. Even without this aspect of Nin’s life, the Diary was hailed as a fascinating document of the inner life of a creative and incredibly intuitive woman-artist who socialized with fascinating people in Paris of the 1930s…and because it was released at the dawn of second-wave feminism and the overall “youth movement” of the 1960s, it resonated with young people, especially young women who saw Nin as a sort of feminist and free-thinking pioneer. The timing could not have been better.

eduardoletter

Eduardo Sanchez’s letter to Anais Nin (fragment) Click to enlarge

What is generally unknown about the Diary is what had to be done in order to include the characters who inhabit it. Had Henry Miller declined to be in it, it probably never would have been published, or if it had, it certainly would not have been as successful. In this podcast, we find out exactly what Miller thought about his portrait, and what he asked Nin to keep or delete.

We also hear from two people important to Nin—English writer Rebecca West and cousin Eduardo Sánchez—both of whom refused to allow Nin to include them. West was one of Nin’s earliest female idols, and Sánchez was Nin’s childhood crush and her confidant during her early adulthood. Sánchez’s condemnation of not only his portrait, but the Diary itself, is astounding, as you will hear in a letter he wrote to Nin in 1965.

Run time: 12:33

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

This podcast is sponsored by Auletris: Erotica by Anaïs Nin, just released 75 years after it was written.

Henry and June, the Movie

On this day in 1990, Henry and June, the first NC-17 movie, premiered. The only reason I wanted to see it was because of the rating—I had to know what it meant. I knew it was the new X, so there had to be sex, and lots of it. I could tell from the trailer that it wasn’t the American formula of sex and violence, which I abhor (think Basic Instinct), and that it was set in Paris in the 1930s, which intrigued me, so off we went.

hjmovieWhen the film began, I must have missed the part that said it was based on the diary of Anaïs Nin, so I thought that Nin and Henry Miller were fictional characters. The theatre was mostly empty—I was later to find out that the NC-17 rating killed any chance for a wide audience. I feel that the rating was uncalled for, that there was nothing in the film that didn’t cry out “R”—but I suppose it was because of the so-called “lesbian scene,” during which Nin asks two female prostitutes to make love while she watched (and most of that scene was left to the imagination). Henry and June would never be rated NC-17 today, and I imagine the rating still keeps many from seeing it, which is a shame, in my opinion.

The film, I thought, was a bit over-acted, and it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the sexiest of films—and yet it “got” me. I felt the same way I did when I saw the first Star Wars film—like a kid on an adventure. Only this adventure was of the mind, of sensuality, of freedom, of daring, risk-taking, creativity, and joy. It was a rebellion against the status quo.

And then, when the final credits rolled, I discovered that not only were Nin and Miller real people, they wrote about everything I’d just seen. On the way home, we stopped at the used book store and I bought Diary 1 and Tropic of Cancer.

Little did I know that my curiosity about a sexy movie would shape the rest of my life and career.

To order Henry and June, the movie, click here.

To see the full trailer of the movie, click here.

This blog post is sponsored by The Quotable Anaïs Nin: 365 Quotations with Citations and The Portable Anaïs Nin.

Podcast 18: Anaïs: A Dance Opera with Cindy Shapiro

Episode 18 of The Anaïs Nin Podcast is an interview with Los Angeles composer Cindy Shapiro, who, with director/choreographer Janet Roston, is launching a new stage production, Anaïs: A Dance Opera in August 2016. While reading the letters between Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller collected in A Literate Passion, Shapiro was almost immediately inspired to write songs based on Nin’s life. Now, after years of composing, auditioning performers and rehearsals, opening night is coming soon. Anaïs: A Dance Opera is mix of singing, intricate dancing and video display. Amazingly, Nin’s story unfolds without a physical set—a character called “Eternal Anaïs” acts as an MC, narrating Nin’s life in song while a “Dancing Anaïs” and other characters interpret each phase of Nin’s life with dance. The video display, which includes the lyrics of the songs, is used to depict the era and atmosphere of each scene. Anaïs: A Dance Opera is a “young show” that is intended to appeal to a young audience, a new generation who may be inspired by Nin’s life and work.

AnaisADanceOpera

Run time: 35 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

Sponsored by Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947

Barbara Kraft reads from Henry Miller: The Last Days

Barbara Kraft, author of a new memoir on Henry Miller, recently gave a reading at a Santa Monica library, which was video recorded and is now ready to be viewed.

Kraft not only speaks of her close relationship with the literary titan during his final two years, but also reminisces about her friendship with Anais Nin during the years just before her death–a relationship that was independent of that with Miller. Kraft’s gift to Miller and Nin fans are her two beautifully written memoirs:

FrontCoverEbook

 

KraftCover-3a

Each book is the perfect companion for the other.

To watch the video, click here. (Run time: 49 minutes)

BarbaraKraftReading

 

Podcast 17: Barbara Kraft Interviews Henry Miller

At about 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, June 7, 1980, rebel author Henry Miller died in the arms of his caretaker in Pacific Palisades, California, which marked the end of an amazing era, one that saw literature turned upside down, saw the draconian obscenity laws of the US taken apart after long court battles. Few had heard of Miller before his Tropic of Cancer was finally published after a nearly 30-year wait, but he rose to instant stardom in the twilight of his life.

Henry Miller

Henry Miller

Miller moved into a seemingly bourgeois neighborhood, 444 Ocampo Drive, Pacific Palisades during the 1960s, but what went on there was anything but bourgeois. A constant parade of people came and went, some staying for a while, others coming on a regular basis to cook for Miller and to make conversation. One of these cooks was Barbara Kraft, who became an intimate friend during the last two years of Miller’s life. She has just published a memoir, Henry Miller: The Last Days, which chronicles her experiences with Miller and his entourage.

To commemorate Miller’s 88th birthday, Kraft recorded what would be the last substantial interview of his life. In it he speaks about his philosophy on life, writing, women and men, religion, politics, sex, love, marriage and spirituality. He mentions his hero Blaise Cendrars, his Paris companion Alfred Perlès, his meeting with Emma Goldman, Stroker publisher Irving Stettner, and, of course, Anaïs Nin.

The interview was broadcast on December 26, 1979 on KCRW, and to commemorate the passing of a literary legend, we are presenting it in its entirety for our podcast.

Run time: 1 hour

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen to the podcast without iTunes, click here.

To order Barbara Kraft’s memoir Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

Henry Miller and Emma Goldman

To celebrate the publication of Barbara Kraft’s new memoir Henry Miller: The Last Days, we are posting a clip from Kraft’s 1979 interview with Henry Miller. In the clip, he discusses how Emma Goldman, a champion for workers’ rights, inspired him to become a writer.

To listen to the clip, click here.

To see more about Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

Emma Goldman speaking, 1916

Emma Goldman speaking, 1916

Podcast 16: Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller with Barbara Kraft

In 1974, Barbara Kraft sent Anaïs Nin, who was offering to mentor writers, a submission that was accepted. Just after Kraft met the famous diarist, Nin discovered she had cancer and began a two-year descent into pain and suffering, but Kraft and Nin forged a deep friendship that helped Nin transcend the illness. Nin’s relentless spirit in the face of death is the subject of Kraft’s first memoir, Anaïs Nin: The Last Days (2011, Sky Blue Press).

FrontCoverEbookSoon after Nin died in early 1977, Kraft attended a talk by Henry Miller and was so impressed that she wrote “An Open Letter to Henry Miller,” which was broadcast on a local NPR station. When Miller heard a recording of the “Letter,” he immediately sought Kraft out, and he eventually asked her to be one of sixteen rotating cooks who would not only cook dinner for him, but engage in conversation. She accepted, and soon she was conversing with the Tropic of Cancer writer on a regular basis about life, art, religion, sex, philosophy and, of course, writing. Kraft became more than a cook, though—she also was Miller’s confidante and, in the end, the one responsible for making sure he didn’t die alone in the chaotic house in Pacific Palisades, all of which is included in her latest book Henry Miller: The Last Days (2016, Sky Blue Press).

Listen as Kraft reflects upon these two intimate, but very different, friendships and how she captures the essence of both Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller.

Run time: 29 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

For more on Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

For more on Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, click here.

Henry Miller: The Last Days

Barbara Kraft’s new memoir, Henry Miller: The Last Days is available in print now and will be published in digital format May 20, 2016.

FrontCoverEbookKraft met Henry Miller in 1977, only months after her friend—and Miller’s former lover—Anaïs Nin died. Kraft was so impressed by Miller that she reread virtually all of his work and broadcast an “open letter” to Miller on an NPR station. When Miller heard a recording of the show, he invited Kraft to become one of his sixteen rotating cooks.

(Click here to hear Kraft and Miller discussing the arrangement.)

Kraft returned on a regular basis to the Miller household and struck up an intimate friendship with the famous author, recording daily events and conversations in her diary. The operations of the household were anything but normal—they were largely carried out by various individual who came and went, and the person in charge of them was a serious drug addict. It was largely due to Kraft’s intervention that Miller didn’t die of malnutrition and, in the end, didn’t die alone.

To see details of Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

To see details of Anais Nin: The Last Days, click here.

Next Page »