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.

Anthology of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal is here!

Not only are we celebrating Anaïs Nin’s 116th birthday, which occurs on February 21, 2019, but also the publication of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Anthology 2003-2018.

Anaïs Nin was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine on February 21, 1903. A Café in Space was born 100 years later, 15 volumes of which were published annually. The legacy of the journal is captured in a one-of-a-kind anthology, some 400 pages of the best representative work collected over the 15 years of its existence.

The authors’ list is quite impressive:

Anaïs Nin
Henry Miller (Nin’s former lover)
Alfred Perlès (Miller’s best friend)
Hugh Guiler (Nin’s “east coast” husband)
Joaquín Nin (Nin’s father)
Rupert Pole (Nin’s “west coast” husband)
Joaquín Nin-Culmell (Nin’s younger brother)
Eduardo Sánchez (Nin’s cousin)
John Ferrone (Nin’s editor)
Lanny Baldwin (Nin’s 1940s love interest)
John W. Bagnole (Miller scholar)
Simon Dubois Boucheraud (Nin scholar)
Sarah B. Burghauser (Nin scholar)
Ruth Charnock (Nin scholar)
Béatrice Commengé (Nin’s French translator)
James M. Decker (Miller scholar)
Lynette Felber (Nin/Miller scholar)
Janet Fitch (American novelist)
Lana Fox (erotic writer)
Benjamin Franklin V (Nin scholar)
Kennedy Gammage (poet and Durrell scholar)
David Green (Durrell scholar)
Anita Jarczok (Nin scholar)
Dawn Kaczmar (English scholar)
Jane Eblen Keller (Durrell/Nin scholar)
Harry Kiakis (friend of Miller)
Richard Pine (Durrell scholar)
Eduardo Pineda (historian)
Bruce Redwine (Durrell scholar)
Steven Reigns (Nin scholar)
Chrissi Sepe (novelist)
Colette Standish (visual artist)
Yuko Yaguchi (Nin scholar and Japanese translator)

This talented and diverse group of contributors best represents  A Café in Space and offers insight into Nin, Miller, Durrell, and other contemporaries, including Rebecca West, Evelyn Hinz, Helba Huara and Luis Buñuel.

Never-before-published photographs of Anaïs Nin adorn the covers of the anthology, and several rare photos are included in the contents.

Articles include diary entries by Nin and her correspondence with many of her contemporaries and family members, revealing details of events previously unknown to the public, including a series of letters to and from her father during the incest period. There are offerings by some of the world’s most highly regarded Nin, Miller and Durrell scholars on far-ranging but always relevant topics, including Nin’s rise to fame, how she is regarded in the media, her history of readership in Japan, how she influenced some of today’s writers, the story behind Nin biographies, thoughtful looks at today’s studies on Nin, Miller and Durrell, and accounts of visits to some of the most iconic locations frequented by the “three musketeers” in France. Short fiction, art and poetry reflect Nin’s influence on today’s writers, and there are book reviews on studies of each of the “musketeers.”

This anthology is a grand adieu from the only Nin-dedicated literary journal in print today and will give the reader much to savor, something to dip into whenever the spirit is moved, or perhaps to binge on to satisfy the hunger for material on one of the most important writers of the twentieth century, whose influence reaches well into the twenty-first.

To purchase the print version of the Café in Space anthology, click here.

To purchase a digital version, click here.

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New Review of Henry Miller: The Last Days

Here is a new, abridged version of a review by Resources for American Literary Study:

Henry Miller, the Last Days: A Memoir
By Barbara Kraft. San Antonio: Sky Blue P, 2016. 203 pp. $15.

Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller (1891-1980) both shared part of their private lives with Barbara Kraft, giving her the unimaginable opportunity of being alongside two of the more memorable writers of the twentieth century during their final years. Kraft became an important source of support and enjoyment for the ailing writers. Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, A Memoir (2011) is Kraft’s account of her time with Nin, and this current memoir details the events surrounding her friendship with Miller. Drawing from her diary recording that period, Kraft provides an intimate view into Miller’s ups and downs with his failing health. We are presented with a Miller very much alive and connected—albeit growing more disinterested—with the world around him, vivacious in his love for Brenda Venus, continuing his endless correspondence, and publishing short works. Miller’s home life, however, was increasingly troubled, and Kraft elucidates biographical details of Miller’s household that have been overlooked by his many biographers.

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Following the international fame Miller attained in the early 1960s due to his pornography trial and resulting American and British publication of his Tropic novels, he became a sought-after outsider. With this (mostly) unwanted attention, the aging writer tended to avoid many of his devoted fans. In reaction to this sometimes-aggressive public attention, Miller may have subconsciously tried to regain some privacy by keeping separate the various sections of his life. Kraft recalls that Miller had a revolving collection of sixteen different “chefs” visiting his house, of whom Kraft was one—these were people whom Miller had asked to cook him dinner a few times a month—yet, over the course of nearly three years, Kraft never met any of the others. Because of Miller’s tendency to pigeonhole his friends into various parts of his life, it is understandable that Kraft’s memoir is very much centered on Miller’s kitchen, a place where she spent many evenings conversing with Miller, sometimes bringing special visitors with whom Kraft thought Miller might find an affinity.

From a biographical perspective, Kraft’s Henry Miller, The Last Days is an important addition to the memoirs and reflections on Miller’s Pacific Palisades time.

By the beginning of 1980, the inevitable final decline in Miller’s health became apparent to Kraft. Death came slowly, and Kraft recalls the waiting for the moment when his life would end. During these last months, Miller was still mostly cognizant of his surroundings, but his body increasingly failed him. He refused to let Venus see him in such a condition and turned down an opportunity presented by Kraft to meet Eugene Ionesco, one of his favorite playwrights. As his body failed, Miller’s mind also drifted, sometimes back to his days in France, and he soon required Pickerill’s assistance with all of his daily functions. Kraft moves quickly through these months, as Miller’s ability to interact with guests decreased and she had to devote more attention to her own personal life.

The memoir ends with Miller’s death, and by ending there, it appears that Kraft had no personal involvement with Miller’s posthumous family affairs. Why it took Kraft twenty-three years to set down a detailed reflection on her friendship with Miller seems irrelevant; for those interested in Miller, Kraft recollects the events as if they had just recently unfolded, writing in the first person. Ultimately, the expanded details of the book-length memoir provide a final glimpse of Miller from a perspective that no other biographer will be able to portray.

WAYNE E. ARNOLD, The University of Kitakyushu, Japan, for Resources for American Literary Study

To order a print copy of Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

To order a digital copy, click here.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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:

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Each book is the perfect companion for the other.

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

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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.

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