Volume 7 (2010) of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal (the only current Nin journal anywhere) has just been made available on Kindle. In this issue are some amazing articles and excerpts from Nin’s unpublished diary, not to mention an interview with Nin biographer Deirdre Bair and John Ferrone’s account of the birth of Delta of Venus. Eventually, we hope to have Vols. 1 through 6 published as e-books as well.
Our aim is to make the journal easy to obtain no matter where one is, and to make the price one that is easy on the pocketbook ($3.99). There’s nothing like the print version in one’s hands, but the quality, photographs, and extra bells and whistles, such as an interactive table of contents, are all there in the e-book. We hope you will support our efforts!
To visit the Amazon.com location for A Café in Space, Vol. 7, click here.
To see a description of the contents of Vol. 7, click here.
Our other Nin titles on Kindle are: The Portable Anais Nin, House of Incest, Collages, The Winter of Artifice, Under a Glass Bell, Ladders to Fire, Children of the Albatross, A Spy in the House of Love, and Seduction of the Minotaur, and The Four-Chambered Heart, with more to follow.
A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 7, is a reality. Today we received shipment of the newest—and in some ways one of the best—issue of the only current Anaïs Nin publication in print. Its 150 pages contain Anaïs Nin’s previously unpublished diary excerpts, an intimate look at Hugh Guiler’s feelings about his marriage to Nin, an interview with Deirdre Bair, John Ferrone’s tale of how Delta of Venus was almost not published, and several articles and creative pieces from some of the most established and newest stars of Nin study.
We encourage you to order your copy now—we have sold more advance copies than ever before, and the supply is limited.
Table of Contents
Kim Krizan: Hugh’s Stand—Revelations of a letter from Hugh Guiler to Anaïs Nin
Paul Herron: Leaping Ahead of Reality—Hugh Guiler’s diary
Deirdre Bair: The Making of Anaïs Nin: A Biography—Paul Herron interviews Deirdre Bair
Anaïs Nin: L’Homme Fatal—From the unpublished diary
John Ferrone: The Making of Delta of Venus
Angela Meyer: Anaïs Nin’s Delta of Venus—Feminine identity through pleasure: a mini analysis
Dawn Kaczmar: Irigaray and Nin Through the Looking Glass—Mimetic re-appropriation of the masculine discourse
Adrian Haidu: A Masculine Perspective of Woman—(Considered as a perspective)
Joel Enos: Flow and Moments of Arrest—Anaïs Nin’s boat imagery
Cari Lynn Vaughn: A Literary Love Triangle—Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin and D.H. Lawrence
Tristine Rainer: Les Mots Flottants—Anaïs Nin’s Diary 2
Sarah Burghauser: Ouroboros and Disorientation—Profile of a Nin lover
Laura Marello: Anaïs Nin and Her Contemporaries—Ahead of their time
Daisy Aldan: Three poems from the end
Marc Widershien: Four poems from Maine
Sharanya Manivannan: Possession
Connie Baechler: Overlay
Reviews and other items of interest: Reviews of The Mistress Cycle, The Heretics, and Ferlinghetti: A City Light; internet links
Following is a portion of the interview I conducted with Deirdre Bair that deals with some of the questions that have been asked:
PH: How do you feel about Anaïs Nin, the woman, 14 years after the publication of your biography?
DB: More and more, as the years pass, I recognize how important she was as a woman of her time. She really paved the way—many ways—for women at a time when everything, in the world of women, was in flux and changing. She allowed women to realize all the possibilities that were out there in the world for them. And she did this so instinctively and naturally. A partial response to one of your questions—you’d mentioned how some women had said, “She ruined my life. I did what she told me to do, ended relationships and went on into the world.” Well, there were an equal number who said, “She gave me my life. She raised possibilities for me that I’d been to timid to embrace before I read her writing. After that, my life changed dramatically.” So I would say that for every woman who said, “She ruined my life because I did what she did and it didn’t work out for me,” there were an equal number who said, “She allowed me to realize so many possibilities for myself.” So I think the more we look back on her during the historic time in which she lived and wrote, we’re going to realize the importance of her contributions, not only to arts and letters, but to life.
PH: How do you respond to the criticism that your biography is judgmental and moralistic?
DB: I would to tell those people to look at the mail I received when the book was published. For every critic who accused me of that, there are other critics who said, “You were too easy on her. You were too soft on this terrible, dreadful person.” So what we’re looking at here is an individual response on the part of the reader, and I actually welcome both judgments. Basically I think it really comes down to the reader. Those who adore Anaïs will be disappointed—and Rupert Pole and Gunther Stuhlmann were certainly first among them.
PH: This is a question to which I know some would like an answer: did you like Anaïs Nin?
DB: I try to not like or dislike anybody I write about. Writing is my work; my life is elsewhere. I’m a scholar. I’m an intellectual and cultural historian of literature, and my job is to write a book that future generations will use in order to form their own opinions. It’s not my job to like or dislike; it’s my job to understand, and to present the totality of the person’s life and work with as much integrity and objectivity as possible.
In response to questions I e-mailed to Deirdre Bair (including why she chose to term Anaïs Nin a “major minor writer”), she responded:
I’ve been re-reading my introduction to [Anaïs Nin: A Biography] since this afternoon, when I received your email request to respond to critics. As you know, I’ve published two books since I wrote the biography of Anaïs Nin and I am now on deadline for a third, so I haven’t re-read any part of the book since the last time I had to give a talk about it, and that was 3 years ago in Australia. But today, in response to your thoughtful query, I opened the book and re-read my introduction carefully and thoroughly. I was surprised by a number of things that made me wonder how much “reason” versus how much “emotion” had colored the perceptions readers brought to bear on their responses to the book.
My first response to the readers who are hostile to the book was to note from my very first sentence, how clearly and succinctly I told them what my aims, goals, and intentions were in writing the book. In doing so, I enumerated all the charges against Anaïs that I had heard before I started to write—about the “liary,” or how she did not “deserve” a bio such as mine (p. xvi), and how I believed it was the biographer’s responsibility to answer such charges.
I explained to the reader how I went about my work, (beginning on p. xvi and continuing on xvii). The paragraphs on p. xvii beginning “In every instance” and ending with “…evidence for further scholarly inquiry” explain in full how I worked to produce an “objective” biography, how I avoided attaching labels to her, and how I felt the obligation “to allow readers to form their own opinions about this woman I found so compellingly complex.”
Then, on p. xviii, I explain in full how and why I came to adopt Cynthia Ozick’s sophisticated and well-reasoned argument for calling the neglected novelist Arthur Chester a “major minor writer” and for applying this term to Anaïs Nin. I believe those several paragraphs clearly and carefully explain what I meant, so I choose not to try to explain my reasoning further here. I urge readers to re-read these paragraphs carefully, objectively, and with “reason” and without the excess of “emotion” that many bring to their thinking about Anaïs Nin.
I urge them to read the concluding paragraphs on p. xviii. After that, if they wish to think negatively of the book I wrote, that is certainly their prerogative. But I would like to end this email with two remarks I live by as I practice the craft of biography.
The first is by Desmond MacCarthy, literary critic and friend of Virginia Woolf. He said the biographer must be “the artist under oath.” In other words, the biographer has the moral obligation to tell the truth, but to do so in a book that is every bit as interesting to read as a fine novel.
Woolf herself gets the last word here, for I believe that if I have a Credo, this is it: “Each of us has as many as a thousand selves. Happy the biographer who captures six or seven of them.”
That was what I tried to do as I wrote about the life and work of Anaïs Nin.
The entire interview will be published in A Café in Space, Vol. 7.
When Noel Riley Fitch’s study of Nin (Anaïs: The Erotic Life of Anaïs Nin) was published in 1993, the response of some in the Nin community was to swiftly brand it as “baseless” (in the sense Fitch did not have access to the Nin archive) and “sensationalistic” (in the sense it focused mainly on Nin’s love life). For the next two years, however, there were high hopes for the “official” biography, Deirdre Bair’s Anaïs Nin: A Biography, which was to be released in March of 1995. However, ominous rumblings arose even before its publication: Rupert Pole, in a letter to a friend, said the book was a “betrayal.” Gunther Stuhlmann said in a phone conversation that he had demanded his name be removed from the acknowledgements page. Once the book was published, the outcry grew, exacerbated by the response of the book reviewers, who often seemed more intent on reviewing Nin’s life rather than the biography itself.
For example, Carlin Romano of the Philadelphia Inquirer began his review with this statement: “Anaïs Nin lied and fornicated the way the rest of us breathe: regularly in order to live, and in deep gulps in order to flourish.” Nigella Lawson of The Times said: “An affair with Henry Miller—who matched [Nin] for self-centredness, grabbiness, and lack of talent…” Bruce Bawer of the New York Times said in response to Bair’s conclusion that “Nin was among the pioneers who explored three of the most important [concepts that brought sweeping societal change]: sex, the self and psychoanalysis” by retorting, “If Nin is remembered at all, it will not be as a pioneer but as a colorful peripheral character who embodied, in an extreme form, some of the more unfortunate distinguishing characteristics of our age: an obsession with fame; a zeal for self-advertisement; a tendency to confuse art and self-expression; a rejection of intellect in favor of feeling; a romantic glorification of neurosis, selfishness and irresponsibility.” The question begs to be asked: did the biography cause the responses, or did the pre-formed opinions of the reviewers and those in the Nin world skew their responses to the biography?
Within the Nin community, much was made of the fact Bair did not know Anaïs Nin personally and that she was “judgmental” in the treatment of her subject. Gunther Stuhlmann, in his introduction to Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors (Sky Blue Press, 1996), addressed these issues in reaction to both Fitch’s and Bair’s books:
“In recent years a number of biographers, here and abroad, have tried to assemble their own images of Anaïs Nin. They seem to have been enthralled, most of all, by what they could glean of the erotic aspect of their moving target. With lipsmacking glee, or sour disapproval, they have turned their spotlights upon the supposedly “sensational” and “shocking” details of the private sexual life of the lady from Neuilly which, of course, fail to reveal a complete image of a complex personality, or to illuminate the nature of the impact her creations have had on a vast multi-generational audience.
“Biographers, especially when they have no personal knowledge of their subject, rely for their interpretations upon the sometimes dubious documentation of fragmented memory shards, the recollections of contemporaries often shaped by their own agendas, and most of all on the paper trail of the vanished person, the raw material of records and writings left behind.”
During the five years Deirdre Bair spent writing her biography of Anaïs Nin, she acknowledged that not having known Nin was a detriment. In her introduction, she says: “I had to settle for the verbal testimony of those who had known her…and I was astonished at the range of their responses, especially how, in so many cases, the mere mention of her name provoked vehemence and outrage… So a crucial issue became my trying to understand what there was about Anaïs Nin that made people react so strongly even though she had died more than a decade earlier.” So, were the “facts” again distorted by emotional responses to Nin? And how does one choose one response over the next as validation for factual information? And would knowing Anaïs Nin have helped in the end? To whom did she reveal her entire self during her lifetime?
In a recent interview, Bair said, “Any major event or happening or actions in Anaïs’s life began from what she wrote in her diaries at UCLA. If I wrote about something, it was because I fact-checked as thoroughly as I could. If she said she had an affair with somebody, if that person was still alive, I called them, I contacted them, I went to see them, and I asked, ‘Did you have an affair with Anaïs Nin?’ If I wrote about a possible incestuous relationship, it was because I checked every possible document, every possible person that I could. I think that was about as close to the truth as we were going to get.”
Explaining the issue of incest further, Bair says:
“The way I dealt with that was to photocopy those pages in the diary. I am a member of a group called the New York Institute for the Humanities, an NYU-affiliated body of public intellectuals, as we are called. Among them were some distinguished psychoanalysts and writers in that field—Jessica Benjamin, Muriel Dimen, Virginia Goldner, Sue Shapiro, and many of them specialize in the abuse of women. So I said to them, ‘I’m going to convene a special seminar.’ There were six analysts in total in the room. I said, ‘I’m going to pass out these photocopied pages from this diary that Anaïs Nin wrote, and at the end of the evening you have to give them back to me, and you have to swear secrecy to not tell anyone about this because I don’t know if it’s true, and I don’t know if I’m going to write it.’ So these six highly respected, important authorities in the field, they all turned to me and said, ‘It’s as if she is in my consulting room and that she’s one of my patients. This is the story that I hear.’ They called it adult onset incest. They said that often, when a parent and a child have been separated at a very young age, when they come together as adults, they see the reflection of themselves in the other and a love affair results. Shortly thereafter, a woman named Kathryn Harrison wrote just such a memoir, about her incestuous affair with her own father…it was word for word what Anaïs wrote in the diary. At that point, I knew I had to write it.
“So I said to Joaquin (Nin-Culmell), ‘I’m very, very worried. You have become a dear friend of mine, and I’m going to have to write this, and I’m afraid it’s going to end our friendship.’ And he thought very carefully for a long while. And he said, ‘Well, you’ve told me every terrible thing I’ve long suspected about my sister, but I know that you’re going to write it in such a way that you will still allow me to love her.’ And I burst into tears.”
Contrary to the reaction of Pole, Stuhlmann, and others in the inner Nin circle, both Joaquín Nin-Culmell and Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz (Nin’s brother and niece and her closest living relatives at the time) found the Bair biography to be sensitive and fair. Gayle said recently, “The problem with some is that they will say, ‘If I understand Anaïs Nin and you disagree with me, then you don’t understand her.’ Deirdre Bair didn’t paint a gallant, romantic picture of Anaïs, but overall I thought she did a very professional and sympathetic job. Perhaps Rupert felt upset because the book did not whitewash Anaïs’s life and did not sanctify his role in it.”
The entire interview will be published in A Cafe in Space, Vol. 7
By the early 1990s, it was apparent that Evelyn Hinz, the so-called “official” biographer of Anaïs Nin, was never going to get around to writing a biography. Rupert Pole, Gunther Stuhlmann, and many Nin scholars were growing impatient, especially since scholars did not have free access to the unpublished portions of the Nin archive and therefore there were great chasms in the understanding of Nin’s life. By 1990, all of the early diaries had been published, as well as the first “unexpurgated” diary, Henry and June, which covered the years 1931 and 1932. However, even Henry and June was a frustrating endeavor for scholars, since the book was not indexed and left out many details of Nin’s life. That’s not a criticism of the book, for the intent was for it to read well, like a novel…indeed, it read well enough for Philip Kaufman to use it as a basis for the screenplay of the movie Henry and June, which was released in the fall of 1990 to critical acclaim.
Around this time, Deirdre Bair, who was finishing the manuscript for her biography on Simone de Beauvoir, was alerted to the lack of a Nin biography through her agent. This planted a seed in her head, and soon she became intrigued by a woman “who wrote reams and reams, hundreds of thousands of words, but they were only about her, about her personal life,” as opposed to Beauvoir, who wrote only about her public life. When Bair read the entire diary series, she “was seeing tremendous holes in…shall we call it the truth? There were tremendous questions, unresolved questions that needed to be resolved. In Diary 1, for example, she’s enjoying this marvelous life and I’m wondering who is paying for this; where is the money coming from? What’s the background of her career? What’s her financial status? There are all these questions Anaïs never answered. But then she didn’t really have to—this was autobiography, this was memoir, and this is what she wanted the reader to know. But a biography is a different animal altogether, and so as a biographer it was my job to fill in the holes.”
She called John Ferrone (who edited the erotica and Henry and June, among other famous titles at Harcourt) and Gunther Stuhlmann, the Nin estate’s literary agent. She met with Stuhlmann, who, she says, welcomed her with open arms, and then she traveled to Los Angeles and met Rupert Pole, who took her on a tour of the Silver Lake house and the archives at UCLA. He told Bair that Hinz’s status was unchanged (i.e. she was no longer considered as a candidate for the biography), but that another biographer, Noel Riley Fitch, had approached him as well. Bair made it clear that there could only be one official biographer—Pole and Stuhlmann consequently granted her exclusive access to the archives until the book was published.
Bair visited Joaquín Nin-Culmell, Nin’s youngest brother, in San Francisco and learned of his vehement disagreements with Pole and Stuhlmann about the manner in which his sister’s work was being handled. Bair concluded that she was not about to get in the middle of what was an ongoing war within the Nin camp, and, while gathering information from both sides, made it a point to not share information from one with the other.
The work commenced, a massive collection of data from numerous sources. About the process, she says, “I joke and I say that a biographer can’t say it was a nice day until you check the weather reports for three weeks before and after in twenty-five different newspapers. I did this to a degree I don’t think I did with any of my other books. I knew what a controversial topic she was.”
Coming soon: Deirdre Bair answers her critics
An interview with Deirdre Bair will appear in A Cafe in Space, Vol. 7
I have interviewed Nin biographer Deirdre Bair (3/24 and 3/25) and we discussed many topics. If anyone has questions, I will do my best to answer them within the context of the interview. Feel free to leave questions and/or comments.
The interview will appear in its entirety in A Cafe in Space, Vol. 7.
Anaïs Nin’s diaries came out in heavily edited form because the times and circumstances dictated it to be so. The unexpurgated diaries came out for the very same reasons. In short, Nin’s “autobiography” came out scattershot, and it was left to the devices of the readers to interpret and put together the seemingly infinite number of pieces to get the complete portrait of the woman Nin herself claimed to be one “no one could hold.”
According to the scholar Sharon Spencer, who was a close friend of Nin, the genesis of the idea of a biography occurred when, in the mid-70s, Canadian scholar “Evelyn J. Hinz persuaded Anaïs to name her ‘official’ biographer. In a brief letter which does not specify Hinz’s exclusive access to the unpublished diaries, Anaïs authorized her to proceed with research for a biography (“Forever Anaïs”).
How did Hinz get to the point where she would be entrusted with such important responsibilities, ones that would directly affect Nin’s legacy? Having written about D.H. Lawrence, Hinz’s first book-length study was The Mirror and the Garden (Ohio State Libraries, 1971–out of print), a criticism on Nin’s writing up to that point, only the second such book. In 1975, Hinz edited A Woman Speaks: The Lectures, Seminars, and Interviews of Anaïs Nin. So, needless to say, she had credentials. While Diary 7 contains relatively few references to Hinz, the idea of a biography is mentioned: “Evelyn Hinz persuaded me that a biography would supply a factual, objective completion of the Diary, which sometimes does not cover all the ground. If I agree, it will be for the Diary as well, to fill in” (Diary 7, 228). There is no development of the idea in Diary 7, however, since it ends in 1974.
After Nin’s death in 1977, Hinz did not follow through with a biography. Instead, she became more of a barrier to Nin study rather than a catalyst. Spencer says in “Forever Anaïs”: “It is now 1998. Twenty-three years later Evelyn Hinz has published nothing biographical on Anaïs and has ceased professional activity in seminars and conferences devoted to Anais’s life and writings. However, Hinz has struggled to bar other critics and scholars from access to Anaïs’s manuscripts and correspondence.”
By 1990, Rupert Pole and Gunther Stuhlmann had given up on the idea that Hinz would ever produce a biography and began a search for someone who would. The official biographer would be Deirdre Bair.
Some years later, Rupert Pole recognized his mortality and began to worry about Hinz’s status as his successor as executor, so he took action, going to court to bar Hinz from any ownership to the Nin archive. Hinz died at the age of 64 in 2002. Rumors flew about her: she had become a recluse. She was an alcoholic. She was insane. None of this can be substantiated—it is all hearsay. Certainly, something caused Hinz to cease her scholarly activities, but what it was is up for debate. There is no question Hinz was a champion of Nin during the 1970s, although Spencer believed she used Nin for her own purposes. But what happened to her, and the biography, after that time remains somewhat of a mystery.