Did Gore Vidal lie about his relationship with Anaïs Nin?
According to Kim Krizan’s article in A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Volume 10, the answer is yes. Is this speculation, theory, mere speculation, or fact substantiated with proof?
Anyone who has read The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume 4 (1944-47) knows that Nin had a close friendship with the young budding novelist, but since her sex life and even love affairs of the heart were all but completely edited out, the reader is left to guess about the true nature of the relationship with Vidal.
We do know that Vidal publicly lashed out at Nin with a scathing review of volume 4 of the diary, which made the claim that she invented most of the passages concerning him; he also satirized Nin brutally in his novels, perhaps most notably Myra Breckinridge. His campaign of character assassination continued in his Palimpsest: A Memoir, in which he said that Nin’s biographer (Deirdre Bair) falsely claimed that Vidal proposed marriage to Nin, who was 23 years older than he: “Needless to say, I never wanted to marry anyone, certainly not someone who was to me, in my ageist youth, a very old woman.”
Bair got her much of her information from the unpublished 1940s diary of Anaïs Nin, which provides the details of Nin’s erotic life that was cut from the published diary. In it, Nin clearly states that on more than one occasion, Vidal did propose a marriage in which each would be free to pursue sexual encounters on the outside. While Nin had hoped Vidal’s homosexuality could be “cured” with analysis and maturity (a common notion in the 1940s), Vidal told her, as quoted in the diary, “You see, if I could have loved a woman, it would be you. Now I know my homosexuality is incurable.”
But all this is Nin’s side of the story. Vidal’s side is already clear: Nin was a fabricator, an inventor, a liar.
So, how does Kim Krizan prove that it was Vidal who was the actual fabricator? By going to the UCLA special collections department which houses the Nin papers. In this vast mountain of documents, she unearthed a blockbuster letter from Vidal to Nin written in 1947. In it, he states that he would “never have a satisfying homosexual relationship,” and that while he was “attracted to youth, to beauty,” he was, separately, attracted “unphysically” to Nin and enjoyed the “spiritual emotional rapport” they had. “I need that more than the other.” He goes on to propose selling his house in Guatemala, and then “we can get a small place near Antibes or wherever there are interesting people and cheap living.” He envisions a “tranquil if not complete” life with Nin, one in which she would be “free of America, Hugo (her husband), all the mess.”
But there was one big obstacle to this proposal, and that was Rupert Pole.
Anaïs Nin was born 110 years ago the day this journal, our landmark 10th issue, is to be released, so we have two reasons to celebrate. Ten years ago, I, for one, had no idea that A Café in Space would ever reach such a milestone, and so I must pay tribute to those who have made it happen: our contributors and our readers. Without you, there is no journal on Anaïs Nin some 36 years after her death. It is our aim to continue spreading her words, to enlarge the circle, welcoming new readers and scholars from around the world. I certainly am honored to facilitate this forum for as long as possible, but I am also well aware that this is only a continuation of those who came before us, including Under the Sign of Pisces, edited by Benjamin Franklin V and Richard Centing, and ANAIS: An International Journal, edited by Gunther Stuhlmann. Without such formidable models, this journal would not exist in its present form.
Speaking of the roots of Nin scholarship, one of its key members, Duane Schneider, whose work on Nin led to Anaïs Nin: An Introduction (1979) and An Interview with Anaïs Nin (1970), which was reprinted in Vol. 5 of this publication, died in December 2012. A long-time teacher of English, publisher, author and scholar, he will be missed by his loved ones, his students and the Nin community. His old friend and “partner in crime,” Benjamin Franklin V, pays him tribute in this issue.
One of the 20th century’s greatest men of letters, Gore Vidal, also died in 2012. His connection to Anaïs Nin has long been one that attracts both interest and controversy, especially in light of his vitriolic attacks on her character even long after her death. It seems fitting, then, that we present three looks at Vidal, one of them by Anaïs Nin herself, and try to uncover the truth of their legendary relationship.
The Vidal excerpt from Nin’s unpublished diary also serves as a “preview” of Mirages: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin 1939-1947, which is slated to be released in late 2013 as a co-publication of Sky Blue Press and Ohio University Press. This diary, the first to be published since Nearer the Moon in 1996, reveals how Nin’s forced return to New York nearly destroyed her personally but also helped her become a prolific and more mature writer. In a style of which only Nin is capable, she details the ends of her relationships with Henry Miller and Gonzalo Moré, her futile bonds with increasingly younger men, her publishing woes, and redemption in the form of Rupert Pole, the young, ardent lover who lured her to California, thus beginning her bicoastal double life.
The work of Anaïs Nin, which has by now been largely digitized, is beginning to spread around the world as electronic reading devices become more popular. In the past year or two, Germany, the UK, Italy, France, Spain, India, Japan, Canada, and Brazil are all serviced by popular ebook portals such as Amazon.com, and anyone with a computer, smart phone, tablet, or one of many other devices can now download Nin’s work, making it widely accessible in new locations.
As digital books increase Anaïs Nin’s readership, other formats are also emerging, and one of them appears in this issue: a graphic novel form (or, if you will, a “comic book” version) of one of Nin’s iconic works, “Under a Glass Bell.” Told by Joel Enos and drawn by Fiona Meng, Nin’s characters come “alive” on the page, and a portion of the ethereal story is presented in a way not seen before. Who knows what other kinds of digital media will lend themselves to popularizing Anaïs Nin’s work in the future?
To order the print version of Volume 10 (to be released Feb. 21, 2013), click here.
To purchase the digital version, click here and begin reading today.
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.”
For digital Anais Nin titles, visit our Anais Nin e-bookstore
When Dutton published Anaïs Nin’s first full-length novel, Ladders to Fire, in 1946 (which then contained a section entitled “Stella”), the critics railed against Nin’s use of language in general and her distillation of characters in particular. Nin had revolted against America’s tradition of detailed and realistic descriptions in favor of symbolism, striving to describe the events occurring beneath the surface. 1940s America was not, perhaps, ready for her work, which scholars agree today was far ahead of its time, and thus began the war between Nin and her critics.
One critic in particular raised Nin’s hackles: The New York Times’ Herbert Lyons, whose review was entitled “Surrealistic Soap Opera.” In it, Lyons not only stated that Nin’s male characters were “pale, weak young men,” but also said,
Insomuch as the “avant garde” may not listen to the radio, it is perhaps worth noting that numerous daytime serials are almost exclusively devoted to less fancy variations on this same theme of woman’s struggle to understand her own nature… As in much of modern music, there is little originality. The novel contains traces of Djuna Barnes, Henry Miller, and Edmund Wilson and a large deposit of French surrealism. These days many things get by under the banner of complexity and super-sensitivity; artiness and obscurantism, as always, are sometimes disguises for second-rate talents. But Miss Nin’s novel has a certain interest as a pastiche of contemporary preciousness.—The New York Times, October 20, 1946
Nin’s response in a letter dated shortly thereafter:
Dear Mr. Lyons: When it comes to modern literature you show yourself to be almost totally illiterate. You cannot decipher the simplest facts and resort to distortions.
You see a book full of pale, weak young men when there is only one of them and he plays a minor role. The rest of the men are more than full length, ruddy, lusty characters.
Number One: Bruno. An able bodied and most satisfactory lover whose only handicap in Stella’s eyes lies in his loyalty to his wife and children which is clearly described in the book as being only a problem to Stella’s lack of confidence.
Philip: also a healthy, humorous, confident character, guilty of merely liking too many women.
Stella’s father. Equally powerful and dominant.
Lillian has a perfectly adequate husband.
Jay is big, healthy, joyous. “He sat like a workman before his drinks, he talked like a cart driver to the whores at the bar; they were all at ease with him.”
Djuna, you say, also has trouble with various men, but Djuna has no relationship to any man in the book.
No pale weak men appear at the party. Nowhere in the book can you find that Sabina represents modern woman.
The men in the book are in fact powerful and self confident. You must be one of the pale weak young men of our times to identify so exaggeratedly with one of the minor characters.
Not only did Nin berate Lyons, but Gore Vidal (who was an editor for Dutton at the time, and, since he promoted Nin to his superiors, may have had self-interest in mind) lambasted him with his own diatribe:
I have just finished reading Herbert Lyons’ review of Anais Nin’s new novel LADDERS TO FIRE. I consider his attack on her work absurd, irresponsible, and an excellent example of sloppy reviewing. Since Anais Nin is a literary figure of considerable stature, I wish to come to her defense and to examine the Lyons review.
After making his case, he sums up with:
It is certainly healthy to disagree on the merits of a writer. Mr. Lyons might very well be on the right side, but he has not, certainly, proven his case. He has written an emotional and inaccurate review, bristling with antagonism and not much else. It is sad for authors to read reviews like his; one has the feeling that books can be reviewed by anyone, that reputations can stand or fall on the opinion of some near-illiterate with an axe in need of grinding.
Of course, Nin’s and Vidal’s responses fell upon deaf ears, and for most of her life, until the Diaries were published in 1966 when she was 63 years of age, she would endure the harshness of the New York literary establishment.
Anaïs Nin’s Under a Glass Bell is now being offered in mulitple formats on Smashwords. Other Nin titles on Kindle are: 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.
Anaïs Nin began writing the stories collected in Under a Glass Bell in Paris during the mid to late 1930s and finished in New York after she fled France because of the war. When she could not find a publisher for her original collection of eight short stories, she resorted to self-publishing (with engravings by her husband Hugh Guiler) with her Gemor Press in 1944, hoping that she would win the interest of a commercial firm. It received the notice of critic Edmund Wilson, who favorably reviewed the book for The New Yorker.
The first commercial firm to republish the collection was Editions Poetry London in 1947. Because the original edition consisted of only 65 pages, Nin added another short story, “The All-Seeing,” as well as The House of Incest (her famous 1936 prose poem) and the two novellas from her self-published (Gemor Press in 1942) Winter of Artifice: “The Voice” and “Winter of Artifice.” In 1948, Nin’s then friend and supporter Gore Vidal used his clout to encourage his publisher, Dutton, to publish Under a Glass Bell as well as other Nin fiction. The Dutton edition consisted of the original eight stories, “The All-Seeing,” and four new short stories: “The Child Born out of the Fog,” “The Eye’s Journey,” “Hedja,” and “Through the Streets of My Own Labyrinth.” Also included were the two novellas from Winter of Artifice.
In 1957, the collection was republished as a facsimile of the Dutton edition minus the Winter of Artifice novellas by the Anaïs Nin Press. Swallow Press republished the collection of thirteen short stories in the 1960s, but in 1995 the order of the stories was changed, leading to a bit of controversy. In his introduction to the 1995 edition of Under a Glass Bell, Gunther Stuhlmann explains that his rationale for reordering the stories “chronologically” (meaning that since Nin used diary passages as source material, Stuhlmann sequenced the stories in the order of the events that inspired them), his rationale being that Nin’s growth as a writer would then be reflected in this new order.
Benjamin Franklin V, perhaps the world’s foremost authority on Nin bibliography, argued that reorganizing the stories violated Anaïs Nin’s literary intentions in his 1997 article “Noli Me Tangere” (“Touch Me Not”). In his article, Franklin quotes Nin herself from her introduction to the original edition as saying that “Everything is related and interactive,” and therefore the order of the stories was a significant ingredient in the collection’s content—reading the stories in order results in a more enriching experience, and reordering them robs the reader of this effect. Franklin went as far as proposing that the new Swallow Press edition be allowed to go out of print and the original order be re-established in subsequent editions. However, the current Swallow Press edition retains the order that Gunther Stuhlmann had placed them.
When it came time to place Under a Glass Bell on Kindle, an issue that had to be addressed was in what order to place the stories. Sky Blue Press decided to use Nin’s original placement, feeling that her intentions should be honored. So, Under a Glass Bell has come full circle after a 65 year odyssey.
An interesting set of facts compiled by Franklin is below—citations of diary sources that inspired the stories of the collection. (This list was created to illustrate that the current Swallow Press order is not exactly chronological.)
“Houseboat”: Diary II, 119 (September 1936), 126 (September 1936), 127 (September 1936), 129 (October 1936), 168 (February 1937), 176 (February 1937), 303 (Summer 1938), 318 (January 1939).
“The Mouse”: Diary II, 179 (March 1937), 186 (March 1937), 206-08 (Summer 1937), 316 (January 1939).
“Under a Glass Bell”: Diary I, 167-70 (January 1933), 171-73 (January 1933); II, 61 (October 1935).
“The Mohican”: Diary II, 85 (June 1936), 99-101 (August 1936), 134 (October 1936), 165 (February 1937), 257-58 (October 1937), 311 (October 1938).
“Je suis le plus malade des surrealistes”: Diary I, 187 (March 1933), 229 (June 1933), 230-34 (June 1933), 245-46 (August 1933); II, 188-91 (March 1937).
“Ragtime”: Diary II, 104-06 (August 1936).
“The Labyrinth”: Linotte, 3-14 (25 July-12 August 1914).
“Through the Streets of My Own Labyrinth”: Diary II, 71-81 (April 1936), 184 (March 1937).
“The All-Seeing”: Diary II, 192 (March 1937), 275-77 (November 1937), 288-89 (January 1938), 295 (March 1938), 315 (October 1938).
“The Eye’s Journey”: Diary II, 162-63 (January 1937).
“The Child Born out of the Fog”: Diary IV, 141 (April 1946).
“Hejda”: Diary III, 225-28 (Winter 1942), 233-35 (Winter 1942), 303-04 (January 1944); IV, 33 (December 1944).
“Birth”: Diary I, 337-49 (June and August 1934).
(Details of book history from Anaïs Nin Character Dictionary and Index to Diary Excerpts by Benjamin Franklin V)
(List from Studies in Short Fiction Fall, 1997)
To see or order Under a Glass Bell on Kindle, click here.
Sky Blue Press has also put the original Obelisk Press edition of The Winter of Artifice on Kindle.
Fact: Beginning in 1914, when Anaïs Nin and her family departed Spain for New York, after having lived temporarily with her estranged father’s parents, she began recording daily events in a notebook given to her by her mother. Nin would later famously say that her intention was to write her father an extended “letter” that she hoped would entice him back.
The diary became the centerpiece of the young Anaïs’s life, and she continued the practice of recording her innermost thoughts and impressions in bound notebooks for a good portion of her adult life. Of course, the diaries she kept during her tumultuous years in Paris with Henry Miller became the basis for her fame as a writer when they were finally released in the mid-1960s. What most did not know then was that Nin had given up the daily practice of diary writing some twenty years previous.
After war forced Nin, her husband Hugh Guiler, and many of her circle, including Miller and Gonzalo Moré, to New York around 1940, she became desperately depressed for years, yearning for the “ideal” lover, success in her art of writing, and eventually descended into a downward spiral of failed love affairs and failed books. She began to express a desire to be free from the diary.
On September 25, 1943, she recorded in her unpublished diary: “I wish I could write the END to the Diary and turn to the outside story,” meaning that she felt her creativity was being sucked dry, which was a theme that had been pounded into her head by the likes of Miller, psychoanalyst Otto Rank, and Gore Vidal.
On September 25, 1943, she wrote: “What a potent awakener the Diary is. As I get ready to leave it, I pay it a slight tribute. This should be the last volume [it turned out she would write one more]. At forty I enter a new maturity, stripped of my mirages, dreams and miracles, of my delusions and illusions and my heavy romantic sorrows. What awaits me is the expression of this strength, in action. I am about to lay down my magician’s wand, my healer’s paraphernalia…and to confront the act, in writing as well as in living. Without the diary…the tortoise shell, houseboat and escargot cover. No red velvet panoply over my head, no red carpet under my feet, no Japanese umbrellas growing on the hair, no stage settings, tricks, enchantments…”
On March 13, 1946, she wrote: “This Diary will end when I find the [ideal] lover.”
On April 1, 1946: “I may perhaps attain freedom from the diary itself, from watching myself live, from having to make stories to make it more marvelous. Freedom from my idealized self, the idealization of others.”
Indeed, by the time Nin made her cross-country trip with her “ideal” lover, Rupert Pole, in 1947, she had abandoned the idea of bound diaries altogether, opting to write occasional descriptions of events on loose paper and keep them in folders along with correspondence and articles. After she became famous in the 1960s and into the early 1970s, her diary became what she called the “diary of others,” since she had no time to write new material. She essentially stopped writing in the 1970s, including fiction.
However, as death approached and she came to grips with it, she kept two hardbound diaries in which she handwrote her thoughts on life and death. One volume was the “Book of Music,” the other the “Book of Pain,” presenting both sides of her final years—the joy of living and the struggle with the cancer that would kill her.