Slut-Shaming Anaïs Nin, 2019: Enough!

Meghan Markle has stirred up some waves by using Anaïs Nin’s “I must be a mermaid” quote from The Four-Chambered Heart as inspiration for her collaboration with the British edition of Vogue. Consequently, articles have popped up scrutinizing just who this Anaïs Nin is. One such article, which was published today (August 5, 2019) by Brinkwire and written by an anonymous author, portrays Anaïs Nin (and Henry Miller) in a most unflattering light and is riddled with errors and plain, old-fashioned venom. In order to shed light on the actual truth about who Nin was, I am offering some insight and corrections below.

“The first time Henry Miller made love to Anais Nin, he pounced on her with such ferocity that she felt she’d been ravished ‘by a cannibal’.” [Not true—he actually asked her afterward: “You were expecting more brutality?”]

“It was 1932 and the 20th century’s most notorious writers of erotica were together at her rented chateau outside Paris.” [Neither of them had yet written “erotica.” That did not begin until around 1940 when both were in New York. And her house, which was formerly a living quarters for wine workers, was anything but a “chateau.”]

“Nin’s husband was a rich banker, so she had paid for the impoverished Miller to travel from Dijon, where he was eking out a living as a teacher.” [Nin’s husband had just taken a huge salary cut, and it was drastic enough that he and Nin gave up living in Paris and moved to Louveciennes, a suburb where the rent was cheaper.]

“But even a seasoned philanderer such as Nin was taken by surprise when Miller threw her to the ground and ‘attacked’ her. She was utterly smitten.” [Nin, at this time, had never had sex with any other man other than her husband—she was hardly a “philanderer.” And Miller never threw her to the ground or “attacked” her. Read the diary Henry and June.]

“Nin, who died in 1977 aged 73, was once derided as a ‘monster of self-centredness whose artistic pretensions now seem grotesque’. Yet today her aphorisms are frequently quoted online by a growing legion of fans who are rediscovering her.” [Nin was never attacked this way during her lifetime. The “monster” quote comes from a puritanical reaction to the morally scathing posthumous biography of Nin by Deirdre Bair, which, in spite of its excellent scholarship, reads like an indictment of a woman guilty of high crimes.]

“Nin was a wildly promiscuous woman whose bold sexual experimentation included bigamy, a menage a trois, incest with her own father and writing a book about sexual perversion so sordid — including paedophilia and necrophilia — that even today online retailer Amazon hides it in its ‘adult content dungeon’. She certainly hasn’t always been a fashionable name to drop into conversation.” [The author is probably writing about Auletris: Erotica (Sky Blue Press, 2016), which is clearly no longer in the dungeon.]

“Born in 1903 near Paris to a Spanish-Cuban father and French-Danish mother who split up when she was eight, the beautiful Nin earned a reputation for her untrammelled sex life long before anyone noticed her writing.” [First, she was ten when her father left the family. Second, her highly-regarded book D.H. Lawerence: An Unprofessional Study was written before she knew Miller, her first extramarital lover.]

Meghan Markle

“As she recorded in her diaries and in novels that were thinly disguised memoirs, Nin repaid his devotion by cheating on him relentlessly with the many men who became besotted with her.” [Miller also “cheated” on her, even with prostitutes. Funny, no mention of that.]

“She was fixated with Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis and seduced two leading practitioners who agreed to analyse her.” [First of all, her first analyst, Rene Allendy, was the one who lured Nin to a hotel room where he brandished a whip, not the other way around. As for Rank, the seduction was mutual.]

“She even briefly practised as a ‘shrink’ herself — a deeply unethical one — having sex with her patients on her couch and cheekily later complaining that she couldn’t help but want to ‘intercede’ in their problems.” [I have studied Nin for nearly 30 years and know of no account of her having sex with her patients on her couch. I defy anyone to quote and cite such a passage by anyone who was present then.]

“In fact [Delta of Venus] had never been intended for publication as [Nin] had written it to order, at a dollar a page, in the 1930s for a millionaire businessman in Paris. ‘More porn, less poetry,’ she accurately explained.” [Nin, at Miller’s suggestion, didn’t write erotica until after she returned to New York in late 1939. And the “collector” was an American, not a Parisian. Read the diary Mirages.]

“It was the affair with Miller that helped define her. It was in the early 1930s when Nin, then in her late 20s, met the impoverished, foul-mouthed and bullying author.” [Miller was not a “bully.” He was a robust yet gentle lover and an effective editor of Nin’s work.]

“Soon after, Nin embarked on an affair with the equally lascivious Miller. After that first sexual encounter in the garden, she recorded how in trysts he would treat her like a prostitute, asking her to whip him or crawl on her hands and knees. ‘It is like a forest fire, to be with him,’ she confessed.” [Nin’s first sexual encounter with Miller was at his hotel in Paris, not a garden. And Miller was a not a sadist.]

“Nin became obsessed with [June] Miller and they clearly had a sexual dalliance. In her diaries, she mused about the attractions of sapphism and how the ‘passivity’ of the woman’s role in sex with men ‘suffocates me’.” [Nin and June Miller never had a consummated sexual encounter.]

“When this menage a trois was portrayed in the 1990 film Henry & June — in which Uma Thurman played June — it won a U.S. film classification usually reserved for hardcore pornography.” [Unfairly so, as almost every critic agrees.]

“[Nin] never expressed anything other than delight over the shocking liaison [incest with her father], which perfectly illustrated Nin’s complete inability to feel guilt. [Untrue—the affair deeply conflicted her. Read the diary Incest.]

Anais Nin, 1940s

“For years, Nin was able to keep up a precarious trans-America balancing act (she called it her ‘bicoastal trapeze’), alternating between Pole’s spartan log cabin in the wilds of Arizona, and Guiler’s luxurious flat in New York — fobbing off each man that she occasionally needed to get away for work or relaxation.” [First, they never lived in Arizona. Second, Pole was the one taking money from Nin. Read the diary Trapeze.]

“It never occurred to Nin to consider something as tediously conventional as divorce: she married Pole bigamously in 1955, choosing for the ceremony a remote desert village in Arizona, where she hoped marriage records would be hard to find.” [It was Pole who insisted on marrying her in Arizona—she did not want this, but relented to keep Pole happy. And Nin did consider divorce, but her economic status would have been decimated if she left Guiler.]

“Even after being heavily censored, [the originally published Diaries] remained jaw-droppingly candid about her sexual history and her many lovers — an international array of celebrities including Miller and fellow writers Edmund Wilson and Antonin Artaud, and Freud’s colleague, the famous psychiatrist Otto Rank — and of course her father.” [The original edited Diaries did not clearly assert (or even strongly hint) that she had multiple lovers. This was not known until after 1986, when the unexpurgated diaries began coming out.]

“A friend recounted how they once stopped their car at a petrol station and Nin was surprisingly friendly to all the attendants and mechanics. ‘Oh yes,’ she explained. ‘I sleep with all the men here.’” [That account, by Lila Rosenblum, is untrue. Nin carefully recorded her affairs, even the most insignificant, and nowhere does she write about having sex with mechanics.]

“Nin never had children, although in 1942 she aborted a child at six months. She later admitted she was never sure whether the child was her father’s or Miller’s.” [This abortion, made famous in her diary Incest, was in 1934, and Nin never considered her own father as the father of the child. She was sure it was Miller.]

While these corrections will most likely not reach the many readers of the Brinkwire article, or those it will in turn spawn, at least there is a written rebuttal here. Nin scholarship, for at least the last three decades, has been compromised with misstatements, inaccuracies, puritanical poison pens, all of which add up to slut-shaming. It’s time to set the record straight. The best way to do this is to read her work and do some basic research before exploiting Nin and Markle in a public forum.

The see the original Brinkwire article, click here.

Anaïs Nin’s Greatest Human Triumph

By 1973, Anaïs Nin and Hugh (Hugo) Guiler had been married for 50 years, yet neither of the two ever ceased trying to discover themselves or to understand their relationship. Also by 1973, Nin had for decades been splitting her personal life between Guiler in New York and Rupert Pole in California, trying (and not really succeeding) to keep the two men unaware of each other. In Nin’s unexpurgated diaries Mirages and Trapeze, we discover how Nin used her double life as a means of attaining a sense of wholeness—for in Guiler she had security, artistic understanding, a meaningful social life and access to medical and psychological care; in Pole, she had sexual passion and sensual fulfillment. Since there was seemingly no man alive capable of giving Nin everything she needed, she resorted to two—but this was by no means an ideal situation. As one discovers in Trapeze, Nin was often terribly frustrated by both the point of using each as someone to escape to because of the other.

Guiler, who was a complicated man with two distinct sides—a banker obsessed with money and a sensitive artist who dabbled in engraving and film— from the very beginning was unable to sexually satisfy his wife, who turned to multiple lovers six years into the marriage. Eventually, in 1947, she met the ideal lover in Pole. During that time, Nin was financially bound to Guiler—neither she nor Pole were capable at the time of supporting themselves alone. The arrangement led to resentment and a feeling of being trapped on Nin’s part, and as she spent more and more time away from Guiler, he began to realize he was losing his wife and, like Nin, turned to psychoanalysis to help cope with the situation. The dichotomy between banker and artist widened, and Guiler often felt inadequate as a banker (he had a habit of reckless speculation and was always trying to compete with his dead father, a successful businessman) and as an artist (he was, whether he admitted it or not, competing with his wife). The marriage deteriorated to the point when, in 1949, Guiler floated the idea of divorce by Nin—which, because of her need for security, she rejected. For the next three decades, the Guiler marriage stumbled from one crisis to the next, and, near the end of her life, she declared she and Guiler were “bad for each other.”

After Nin’s success with the Diaries in 1966, she became the breadwinner of the Guiler family. While she abhorred living with Guiler for even short periods of time because of his constant psychological and financial floundering, she would not divorce him out of a sense of gratitude for all he’d done for her—a sense she often labeled as “guilt.” Instead, she supported him and allowed him in his later years to continue filmmaking and to live a comfortable life. While Nin was resigned to the failure of the marriage, Guiler continued to see personal evolution through psychoanalysis and science, which brings us to a letter he wrote to Nin in 1973 after she had spent a “miserable month” with him:

New York, September 13, 1973

Darling: I am terribly sorry to have given you a miserable month after my return from Europe. I am so glad to hear that you have also recovered physically and emotionally. [Psychologist Inge] Bogner says it is crises like this one that strengthen us—or [give us] the ability to surmount them. But she has already helped by saying that most of what happened was due to forces (some of them world forces) that were not under my control.

Certainly it is now clear to me that I brought back from my work only the worries and the tensions, and that I could not expect you to understand that there were also many real satisfactions in the work itself. The truth is that I never really felt adequate in the business world, an inadequacy that was symbolized by my apparent difficulty with arithmetic. Great light has been thrown on this kind of problem by an article by a woman scientist [Maya Pines] in last Sunday’s NY Times. It is a long extract from a book, which Harcourt Brace is bringing out next month [The Brain Changers, 1973]. I hope you will see to it that they send you a copy. Essentially, scientific experiments have proved that our brain is in two segments—the right side inarticulate in language, mute, understanding only in images, and it is clearly related to our dream life. The left side is intellect, analytical (like a Virgo), and is something like a computer. [Each of] these two segments are locked under their own shell and normally connected by hundreds of fibers. But when these fibers are severed (as in the case of an operation for epilepsy) the result is two personalities in the same person, and the left, intellectual personality is always trying to give rational explanations of apparent irrational (or strange) reactions in the other. You helped me to keep these two personalities joined, rather than severed as they would have been with any other kind of wife. So I think that while my father had something to do with my actions, the whole thing is more mysterious than just that, and the woman scientist herself says that no one has been able to penetrate that area.

What is remarkable is how you have been able to throw so much light on an area [business] which was, as you say, alien to you, and in this sense you have achieved, for yourself, as well as for me, an extraordinary equilibrium, helped probably by your persistent efforts to be articulate, which in someone less balanced would have made a Virgo of you. In this sense your writing did more than make you a great artist, but also kept the connection between the two shells in a state of communication, and this to me stands out as perhaps your greatest human triumph.

Love, Hugo

While this letter could be filed under the “too little, too late” category (they would permanently separate only a year later), it certainly provides insight into how Guiler saw himself within the context of his marriage, and it demonstrates his recognition of Nin’s incomparable ability help others find themselves.

Hugh Guiler, New York, 1974

Anais Nin Podcast 26: Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1947-1955

In this episode, Paul Herron, editor of Sky Blue Press, discusses the editing process of the new Anaïs Nin diary, Trapeze, which has just been officially released.

As the title of the diary suggests, this is the story of how Nin was able to pull off what was—and still is—the seemingly impossible feat of maintaining two men, two homes, two lives on opposite sides of the continent without either man knowing about the other. The idea that Nin’s husband, Hugh Guiler, know about Nin’s lover, Rupert Pole, is debunked. With the help of loyal friends, including Guiler’s maid, and countless fabrications, explanations, fictional employers and assignments, she was able to spend about half the year, on and off, with each man and live within two completely opposing worlds. New York was the center of art world and internationalism, high-energy, and Nin moved in vast social circles, living what she called a “big life” with Guiler. In California, she was with Pole, a forest ranger, in a cabin at the foot of the mountains in Sierra Madre, a sleepy town disconnected from the rest of the world, in the middle of nature, and the pace was almost impossibly slow. Each man had his attributes that Nin found irresistible, and yet each man’s negative traits drove Nin mad, even to the point where she found herself not going TO each man, but FLEEING from each. And yet, it was a lifestyle she maintained for the rest of her life, and a story that is only now exposed to the public in full, in Nin’s own words.

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Rupert Pole, 1950s

Herron also discusses the back-stories of Trapeze, including the fact that Nin was increasingly excluded from the American literary world, and her work was chastised by friend and foe alike to the point where she was ready to give up on her writing career altogether.

Also discussed is one of the major supporting characters in Nin’s life at the time—James (Jim) Leo Herilhy, who would later achieve fame with his novels, including Midnight Cowboy. Herlihy not only supported Nin’s writing at the very time when no one else did, he also know Guiler and Pole well enough to give Nin objective and honest feedback on her relationships with them in his eloquent correspondence to her, which is quoted in this podcast.

Run time: 18 minutes

To listen with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

This podcast is sponsored by Trapeze, which can be ordered as follows:

To order the hardcover edition at a discounted price, click here.

To order a Kindle app edition, click here.

Anaïs Nin’s new diary is ready to order

Nearly four years after the release of the last Nin diary, Mirages, Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947-1955 is ready to order in hardback format from Amazon.com.

Trapeze is Nin’s record of the early years of her double life (a husband in New York and a young lover in California) and how she was able to maintain this lifestyle in spite of perilous consequences if she ever let either man know about the other. She was metaphorically swinging on a bicoastal trapeze with no net below. The lengths to which she had to go, as well as the psychological and physical strain, are told in excruciating detail—and when one reads her tale, it is hard to believe that she pulled off  this feat for the rest of her life.

To order Trapeze: click here.

Anais Nin Podcast 7: Ménage à Trois: Nin, Miller and Money

The love affair between Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller is one of the most famous literary liaisons in modern history. In episode 4 of The Anaïs Nin Podcast, we learned how it came to an end, through a series of incredible letters, published in Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947.

But was the relationship over for good? Was there any shred of it that survived?

Listen to Nin’s comments on their failed reunion in 1947, and how their relationship reached a new low when Miller’s friend Alfred Perlès revealed details about the Nin/Miller affair in his book, excerpted from an article in A Café in Space, Volume 12.

Henry Miller, 1961

Henry Miller, 1961

Episode 7 tells us how money played a big role in the ultimate reconnection of Nin and Miller. Miller had won the famous “obscenity trials” and got a huge advance from his publisher just at the time when Nin was down on her luck. Did Miller come through for her, as she had done for him time and again for decades? And how did their meeting go after a 15 year hiatus? Read Nin’s remarks from her unpublished 1962 diary, which are both disturbing and moving.

Run time: 18 minutes

To listen to the podcast in iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To order Mirages, click here.

To order A Café in Space, Vol. 12, click here.

Anais Nin Podcast 5, part 2: 5 more questions for Anais Nin with answers

La Coupole: 1930s social media?

La Coupole: 1930s social media?

Part 2 of episode 5 of The Anaïs Nin Podcast picks up where Part 1 left off: with answers to the last five of the ten questions Nin fans said they would have liked to ask her, the answers to which are thoroughly researched and explained.

The subject matter of Part 2 includes the Paris café life as a precursor to social media and how Anaïs Nin would have used Twitter, Facebook, blogs and podcasts today; the end of her love affair with the famed “laboratory of the soul,” her home in Louveciennes, and her undying affinity with France; how Nin kept (or didn’t keep) her two husbands unaware of each other; Nin’s choice to not bear children—whether it was selfishness, as commonly thought, or a much deeper reason; and how Nin went about the construction her most ignored genre of work, her fiction.

louveciennes1931smaller

The “laboratory of the soul”

With the invaluable help of Sex Love Joy podcaster, Anaín Bjorkquist, these questions are addressed, discussed and answered as closely as possible to how Anaïs Nin herself would have.

Once again, special thanks go to Lulu Salavegesen (@Shimmerinbloom) for the concept of this series.

You can listen to Podcast 5, Part 2 on iTunes by clicking here, or, if you don’t have iTunes, by clicking here.

To learn about Part 1 and listen to it, click here.

Run time: 33 minutes. Enjoy.

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #13

Myth #13: Anaïs Nin’s two husbands, Hugh Guiler and Rupert Pole, were unaware of each other until after Nin’s death.

Fact: Rupert Pole knew Anaïs Nin was married to Hugh Guiler shortly after meeting her in 1947 in New York. Nin and Pole made a famous cross-country trip to California during that summer, which commenced her “trapeze” life, swinging back and forth between Guiler in New York and Pole in California for the rest of her life. In 1955, after she convinced Pole that she’d divorced Guiler, Nin reluctantly married Pole in Quartzite, Arizona. For the next 11 years, Pole believed he was Nin’s legal husband, and Guiler believed he was also. The truth is that Pole was never legally married to Nin because she was still married to Guiler.

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Anais Nin's and Rupert Pole's marriage certificate

Once Nin’s diaries were about to be published, she realized her impending fame was about to bring the kind of scrutiny which would surely shed light on her bigamy. So, in 1966, she told Pole that she was still married to Guiler. She blamed Guiler for not being able to live without her and that he needed her emotional and financial support. She convinced Pole that she no longer had sexual relations with Guiler (which is most likely not true) and that her visits were necessary to keep him happy. Once Pole found out that it was Guiler’s money that had made it possible for Nin to financially help Pole and to spend much of each year with him in the first place, he agreed to the annulment of his “marriage” with Nin. The annulment occurred June 16, 1966.

Perhaps a more intriguing question is, did Guiler know about Pole? The popular belief is that he only found out after Nin’s death when she was mentioned as “Mrs. Pole” in her Los Angeles obituary. After Nin’s death in 1977, Guiler wrote a letter to Pole and in the first paragraph told him that he had been aware of his and Nin’s “special relationship” for more than ten years and that he was grateful to Pole for caring for her during her final illness. (The full text of this letter will appear in the 2011 edition of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal.) The tone is congenial and business-like.

So, in short, while they didn’t meet until after Nin’s death, Pole and Guiler knew about each other for at least the last 10 years of her life.