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.
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.
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.
When 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.
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:
Each book is the perfect companion for the other.
To watch the video, click here. (Run time: 49 minutes)
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.
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.
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.
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).
Soon 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.
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.
Kraft 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.
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.
In her contribution to Volume 13 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Barbara Kraft shares the beginning of her forthcoming memoir Henry Miller: The Last Days, which will be published soon by Sky Blue Press.
After delivering An Open Letter to Henry Miller on public radio in 1977, Miller invited Kraft to cook dinner for him, and she eventually became a regular at the Miller household.
Here, Kraft describes her first meeting with Miller:
“A half hour had passed when I heard a slow shuffling noise in the kitchen and then the famous voice. Leaning on his walker, it was a labored crossing and there he was. Dressed in pajamas and a blue terrycloth robe, fluffy white bedroom slippers and white socks on his feet, Miller continued to charm. Frail, fragile, deaf in one ear, blind in one eye, lame on one side but not broken. Age could not touch him; his spirit was indefatigable and still quite miraculous. The eternal clown, the gentle jester.”
Read the entire excerpt in volume 13, along with an excerpt from Anaïs Nin’s forthcoming Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin and Benjamin Franklin V’s introduction to the book, essays by Nin scholars from around the world, testimonies by women writers influenced by Nin, short fiction, poetry, photographs and visual art.
To order Volume 13 of A Café in Space, which is available in print and as an ebook, click here.
As editor of this journal for the past 13 years, I can personally say that this is one of the most satisfying issues we’ve ever produced, with an excerpt from the forthcoming diary Trapeze, a memoir from one of Anaïs Nin’s lovers, powerful testimonies from women writers affected by Nin’s life and work, critical articles about Nin and those who affected her own work by talented scholars, an introduction to Trapeze by Benjamin Franklin V, poetry, short fiction, photographs and visual art.
Anaïs Nin recounts her first weeks with Rupert Pole in 1947, Lanny Baldwin counters Nin’s account of her relationship with him in the only known memoir by one of the characters in her diary, Barbara Kraft offers an excerpt from her new memoir Henry Miller: The Last Days, Jessica Gilbey explores the little-known relationship between Nin and her mother while Jean Owen tackles the father-daughter entanglement, Erin Dunbar discusses the affect Djuna Barnes had on her work, and Lana Fox delivers a moving account of how Nin came along at the right time as Lana was transitioning from a tragic beginning to a triumphant present.
Other contributors include Diana Raab, Marina Ferrer, Ellie Kissel, Chrissi Sepe, Danica Davidson, Colette Standish, David Wilde, Marc Widershien and Kennedy Gammage.
You can order A Café in Space, Vol. 13 in both print and digital issues by clicking here.
And stay tuned for the next Anaïs Nin Podcast, which will be dropped Feb. 21, 2016.
There is a myth, partly spun by Anaïs Nin herself, that while Henry Miller was a supporter of her writing during the 1930s, he ultimately had no lasting influence on her style. This podcast will prove that not only did Miller influence Nin in achieving a more accessible form of writing after the surrealistically flavored House of Incest, he even wrote some of the passages in her first “mainstream” novel, The Winter of Artifice.
While Miller and Lawrence Durrell certainly believed in Nin’s writing, they were severe critics of her heavily veiled and poetic use of the English language, which even she admitted was often poor due to the fact she was not a native English speaker. Miller encouraged her to put forth her ideas clearly and concisely, and, as you will see, this affected Nin’s future writing in spite of her insistence that she’d rejected Miller altogether in later years. We will also find out why she said this.
In 1939, the Obelisk Press edition of The Winter of Artifice contained three novellas: “Djuna” (the story of Nin’s love triangle with Miller and his wife June), “Lilith” (inspired by Nin’s incestuous affair with her father), and “The Voice” (the story of Nin’s relationships with her psychoanalysts René Allendy and Otto Rank). Today’s edition does not have “Djuna” at all, and the other two stories were significantly altered by Nin in the 1940. The question is: why? Especially when “Djuna” has been called by Nin scholars one of her most solid pieces of work.
It wasn’t until the original 1939 edition of The Winter of Artifice was republished by Sky Blue Press in 2007 that readers finally had access to this long-lost book, and now we can put the mythology surrounding it to bed.
Run time: 21 miuntes
You can listen to the podcast in iTunes here.
You can listen without iTunes here.
The print version of The Winter of Artifice, which was printed in a small edition, is still available at skybluepress.org.
The digital version of The Winter of Artifice can be found on Amazon.com.