Category Archives: Anais Nin

A Pat on the Back for Phil

philjason loves booksIt’s no secret that one of my favorite reviewing homes is the Washington Independent Review of Books. As 2014 closed, the staff members at WIROB pooled their reactions to the year’s work and selected mine among their favored dozen. Certainly I love what I do, but it’s especially uplifting when others who do similar work give you the thumbs up! On top of that, I was happy I’d decided to use an unconventional approach and that others (1) accepted it for publication and (2) honored it by inclusion on this list. Better yet, it capped off (for now) a career based in large part on writing about Anais Nin. My first piece on her work appeared in 1971! That is a long, long time ago. So now I’m patting my own back.


12 of Our Favorite ReviewsTop12

posted December 30, 2014

We published too many terrific reviews this year to count, but some have stuck with us more than others. Here, in no particular order, are a dozen of our faves from 2014. [click on the link below]

12 of Our Favorite Reviews | Washington Independent Review of Books

Enjoy all 12 reviews and please explore the range and depth of this amazing web site. You can find a truncated version of my Mirages review and other Nin materials by clicking the Anais Nin link under “Topics” on the right-hand menu.


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Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947

Edited and with a Preface by Paul Herron. Introduction by Kim Krizan. Swallow Press/Ohio University Press. 440 pages. Hardcover $34.95.

A new, unexpurgated volume of Anaïs Nin’s diaries.

Anaïs, Anaïs, my darling. We’ve waited so long to hear your full voice as you confront the threshold of early middle age. Finally, 17 years after the last section of your unexpurgated diary appeared, we are able to savor not only that transition, but also the progression from your sometimes exotic, often erotic life in and around Paris to your life in New York.


New York: the place where you matured from a girl to a young wife. The place you escaped on a grand adventure in pursuit of the artistic climate that you sought.New York: the place that now seems coarse and unwelcoming. The cultural headquarters of barbarian America is not the ground best suited for your continued personal and artistic growth.


Something is missing.Something is always missing. In your journal, which you devote largely to your love affairs, what’s often missing is the ideal, transcendent union that you always, perhaps foolishly, seek.


Your longtime lover Henry Miller follows you here. His coldness and rationality are quite at home in the U. S., but he is no longer the inspiration, soul mate, and passion center of your life. He has served his purpose, helping to verify your identity as a creative artist and an alluring woman. And he is growing old.


Hugo, your supportive husband whom you love without passion – whom you betray on an almost daily basis – has been noble in his selflessness. Still, he has been only a bank employee. What kind of mate is that? You encourage him to explore his artistic and passionate side – and he does. You steer him toward overcoming his inhibitions – and he makes progress. The reinvented Hugo becomes assertive, even demanding. He is no longer so malleable and obsequious.


Anaïs, sorceress, what have you created?

To read the entire “review,” as it was posted on August 12, 2014 in the Washington Independent Review of Books, click here: Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947 |

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Dropping Another Veil: Anais Nin’s “Henry and June”

*With the appearance of Henry and June (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986), the students of Anais Nin’s life and work are forced to make serious readjustments. This volume brings the sequence of publications drawn from Nin’s diaries into what we might call its “second series,” the new title dealing with approximately half of the time period covered  in  the  first volume:  The  Diary of Anais Nin: 1931-1934 (New York: HBJ,  1966).  In the intervening  years,  there appeared six more volumes of  Diary,  tracing  Nin’s life  into  1974, and then four volumes of The Early Diary of Anais  Nin  which reached back to 1914 and left us once again in 1931.henryandjune_cover1

 Though the cycle was complete, the Early Diary volumes had begun to change our way of looking at Nin, in part because they were edited differently from the  volumes that had been published earlier about her later  life.  The Early Diary seemed more deeply textured, more spontaneous, and more ar­tistically innocent. People not treated or named in the 1931-1974 coverage were now put center stage, including Nin’s cousin, Eduardo, and her hus­band, Hugh Guiler.

 A number of things happened to account for the differences between these subsets of the first cycle. First of all, Nin’s death early in 1977, and per­haps the period of illness leading up to it, removed the author’s own hand from the editorial process. Secondly, the Diary volumes for 1955-1966 (no. 6, published in 1976) and 1966-1974 (no. 7, published in 1980) no longer were the product of the same dedicated diarist who had written the material on which the earlier diaries were based. In fact, beginning with Diary 5, we can see a  shift in Nin’s attention so that the published diaries following  the  mid-for­ties,  the  period  during  which she is most successfully engrossed as a published writer of  fiction and as a public personality, can cover eight, eleven, and  eight  years in  single  volumes much  greater  gulps  of  time  than in volumes drawn from earlier periods in Nin’s life. Even so, a reticence about personal relationships continued through these volumes, a reticence refreshingly absent from the four volumes of the Early Diary.

 In an “editor’s note” to Linotte: The Early Diary of Anais Nin, 1914-1920 (1980, but seemingly prepared by 1978), John Ferrone writes, “This is the first volume of Anais Nin’s diary to be published essentially in the form in which it was written.” There is some qualification to that claim, but any read­er can sense the difference. As we follow the maturing young woman from this volume through the next three of the Early Diary, all of these with prefaces by Nin’s brother, Joaquin Nin-Culmell, we can only wish that Nin’s often stated aversion to mere facts had not been so severe. The fullness and candor of these volumes underscored the questions that had been nagging at readers of the Diary volumes from the beginning: (l) what is being left out, and (2) how do these omissions falsify portraits of the self and the others? hj

Readers were told, from the beginning, about omissions in deference to those who wished to guard their privacy. Perhaps, too, potential legal prob­lems were avoided by bringing only carefully selected material to press. Still, the images of Nin and her world that were created in the published Diary volumes were taken as truthful, reliable images in which incidentals had been stripped out. Why should anyone quibble over the fact that Nin could present the truth of her life without mentioning her husband? In fact, few did quibble, charmed by what was given and revealed,  for all autobiographical writings come to us as revelations.

Henry and June, billed as “from the Unexpurgated Diary,” is definitely a revelation. In it, Nin’s complex emotional and sexual life is presented vividly, insistently, and almost exclusively. Her grand passion for Henry Miller, a passion returned by Miller and fulfilled over and over again, is set against the more tender and more steady affections she felt for her husband. A complicating attraction to June Miller makes Anais both Henry’s rival and his lover, and June’s instinctive eroticism becomes a willed ideal for the formerly re­pressed Anais who, in her late twenties, awakens to the force of her own sex­ual appetites and energy.

The story is kept in narrow focus: Anais, Henry, June, and Hugh — who is kept in the dark about what’s going on. Nin’s feeling of compartmentalization, of multiple selves — a theme in all of her writings — is here given an al­most clinical elaboration. How different is this Anais Nin from the one we met twenty years earlier in Diary volume one? To judge by her behavior, quite different. Is one more authentic? Well, that depends. Here are some impressions.

The Anais Nin of Diary 1 comes across as a rather cautious explorer of relationships. She is always trying to size people up, testing the waters of potential involvements to guard against getting in over her head. Indeed, the famous portraits in this diary are as much judgments as anything else, as the budding writer is at pains to measure herself against her new acquaintances. This tendency toward being judgmental is one of Nin’s least attractive traits, though she seems unaware of it. She remains demure, somehow reserved, even as she adventures into the more bohemian aspects of Paris life. Her treatment of her relationship with Miller is, of course, what must be examined in order to make comparisons with the new revelations of Henry and June.

In Diary 1, Miller is a diamond in the rough, a coarse genius to be nurtured and possibly refined. He is presented as an artistic type more than as a masculine force. Henry’s painful relationship with June is examined from a caring but still relatively detached perspective: Nin seems, in the sections of the diary prepared for print, to be exercising control, seeing things clinically. Though there are signs of her discomfort and instability, she more often comes across as a woman who laments about insecurity while all the time directing the well-diagrammed traffic of her own life and the lives of those ar­ound her. We are let in on the magnitude of passion driving Henry and June, often destructively, but Nin’s own passions are treated more abstractly.

Henry and June turns all of this upside down. Now Nin is swept away in tides of passion, hardly able to comprehend the nature and dimensions of her newly-released sexual self. She is a woman cheating on her gentle, attentive husband and working hard to find convincing rationalizations for her be­havior. Henry’s complexity is more richly presented now, though his artistic self takes second place to his Priapic self: he, while often acting like an unworthy pilgrim at some kind of aristocratic shrine, initiates Nin into the truths of her own body. The moments of guilt recorded in H & J seem genuine, as do the ongoing betrayals and self-justifications. Nin is attractively smudged, roughed up, in this newly released material. No longer uniquely the giver, she takes from Henry even while she works to please him.  And she is taking from Hugh, too, even while she worries herself over homemaking duties.

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H & J enriches our understanding of the personal dynamics underlying Nin’s fictions. From the material presented in Diary 1, it was always easy to identify the fictional Djuna as Nin’s main surrogate, the female personality closest to herself. Djuna had mind: understanding, cool judgment, maturity. The Anais of H & J is more like the fiery Sabina: uncentered, lusty, and imprudent. Earlier readings of the fiction and diaries together invariably concluded that Sabina was, in large part, a portrait of June. Given the additional material on June in H & J, this identification still makes sense; however, the new portrait of Nin’s own restlessness suggests that Sabina is more of a composite.  H & J opens up new possibilities for exploring the relationship between the diaries and the fiction. More important for the present are the new opportunities for finding the elusive Anais Nin.

In that quest, neither volume is satisfactory. One does not balance or sufficiently complicate the other when they are read as separate entities. The present volume, with its narrow focus and somewhat surprising revelations, can be enjoyed as a “work” in itself, but it is difficult to say whose work it is or what it represents. And, because it collects and orchestrates content omis­sions from Diary 1, Henry and June renders that volume incomplete and — more important — distorted. Appearing twenty years apart, these treatments of 1931-32 will find different readers, as well as readers who have lived with one set of impressions for two decades and now have different ones to contend with. Some of these readers will feel cheated.  Are these volumes only publishing enterprises, business deals, with little concern for communicating the essential pattern of Nin’s manuscript diaries?

A more generous response is that we are getting now what only now it is possible to get, and the same was true when Diary 1 appeared. Still, reading the volumes consecutively or even side-by-side, weaving back and forth bet­ween entries written about the same time, does not give readers the texture of the source or of the evolving Anais we are always seeking. There is no way to put the pieces together again. The game of hide and seek, a psychic pattern always present in each volume (and anywhere else we might look in Nin’s work) has been magnified by the way in which the diary material has reached the public.

Which is all to say that we have to take these carvings from Nin’s diaries on their own terms and not confuse them with either the manuscript material or the life that is being, somehow, given a testimony.  We have been offered a startling instance of the distance between art and life, even when the art is the art of the diarist. The Anais who is randy for Henry and June, remorseful and defiant, troubled and ecstatic, is an Anais who had been obscured by the cool, powdered shell of delicacy and decorum — the tonal Nin of Diary 1. And didn’t Nin’s readers always know that something was being held back — that the restraint of the published diary volumes didn’t reveal the sources of feeling released in the fiction? Many can now say, “I knew it all the time.”

It is much clearer now why psychoanalysis became important to Nin. The ways in which she was pulled apart by conflicting needs and desires — the extremes and intensities of those conflicts — are more understandable now that we have Henry and June. The polarities of Nin’s early House of Incest, as well as Miller’s particular interest in that work, are “explained” by revelations in H & J. What few readers know is that much of this story had been told long ago, although only a handful of Nin scholars are familiar with the long-abandoned fiction drawn from the same material that we are now able to explore.

In 1939, when Nin published the first (Paris) version of Winter of Artifice, the collection included a story entitled “Djuna” that thinly disguised the relationships between Henry, June and Anais given in part in Diary 1 and more fully in H & J. *Never reprinted, the story shows the impact of this tri­angular relationship on Nin at a time when she was making the transition from diarist to fiction writer. It is one of many examples of how diary materials that had been suppressed in the published versions found their way into Nin’s fictions. Elsewhere, I have written about how Nin’s relationship with Otto Rank is more intimately revealed in her story “The Voice” than it is in the published account of Diary 1 and Diary 2 (see “The Princess and the Frog” in Anais, Art, and Artists, ed. Sharon Spencer, Penkevill Press, 1986). In addition, the portrait of Hugh that appears in H & J as well as in the volumes 3 and 4 of Early Diary confirms everyone’s suspicion that the  betrayed ”Alan” of A Spy in the House of Love gave us glimpses of the Hugh Guiler (or Ian Hugo) missing from the diary volumes published in the  1960s and 1970s.

Ironically, the most intimate parts of Nin’s life were, until now, more fully revealed in her fiction than in the published diaries. Of course, it is impossible to make air-tight cases for turning all of her fictions into romans á clef; still, Nin’s tendency to protect people in her diary volumes and exploit them for artistic purposes is a bit bewildering. Certainly those people knew who they were, and anyone with imagination and curiosity could make safe guesses. Hugh Guiler is only now, after his death, embarrassed by name, but what did he make of his earlier portrait as “Alan”?

The tension between revealing and veiling is one of the most powerful factors in Nin’s work. Not only is it a theme or motif in many diary passages and many stories and novels, but it is the theme of her career as a woman relating to others through words: the theme of her public self, then, as well as her private self. The Anais of Henry and June was revealed, no doubt, to privileged readers long ago. Now, the wider world that knows her through her writings has, through Rupert Pole’s selection of these formerly suppressed diary materials, an erotically unveiled Anais to contend with. For those who will make Henry and June the first of Nin’s writings that they ex­perience, the impression will be powerful and seemingly cohesive and total. They will be seduced into taking the part for the whole. From them, as from the rest of us, much still remains veiled. Much will always remain veiled.

Nevertheless, between its own covers Henry and June is a remarkable book: fresh, gripping, and pulsing with life. It has none of the studied quality that too often dulls the impact of some of the previously published diary materials. And, because it tells such a sharply focused story, H & J has a unity lacking even in Nin’s best long fiction. In fact, it could easily be passed off as a work of fiction. 

It’s a great story, unveiling an Anais at the peak of her adventurousness, her creativity, and her sense of freedom. Her relationship with Henry, though not idyllic, was thoroughgoing in scope and intensity. And Anais, so shaken by what she felt and did, was as out of herself as she would ever be. This was her grandest passion, and this record of it is among her grandest achieve­ments — if not for style than for sheer immediacy and power. Her unwillingness to abandon Hugo at this time changed the direction of her life and Mil­ler’s.  The heat of their constrained, furtive affair was incendiary; the art of each begun during this period was rarely surpassed in their later careers. They were under each other’s spell: soulmates, fleshmates, unique contribu­tors to one another’s very different paths as writers. They were almost collaborators in art, as they were in life.

Nin’s meditations on types of love and types of faithfulness respond to her feelings for a large cast of characters. Her cousin Eduardo is still a player in Nin’s complex emotional life. Her analyst, Dr. Allendy, is an adventure waiting to happen. Memories of John Erskine bubble up. The tempestuous, destructive June and the passive, supportive Hugo — both of whom undergo significant changes in the course of the year — are layered into the complex equation of  Nin’s and Miller’s expanding identities. But in this torrid year, Anais and Henry recreated themselves and one another. Because he had the courage to treat Anais as a strong woman rather than as a childlike, frail decoration, Henry liberated the woman who was there and exiled the adolescent. Because he took her seriously as a fellow artist, Henry won her as no one had before or would again.

Though it took Nin a while to be sure of it, her diary writing was her major literary achievement. Henry and June confirms this, even while it fur­ther complicates those questions of the “whole truth” and of literary genre. Until quite recently, we have had very little of this kind of writing: an intelligent, articulate woman’s record of her sexual liberation. And this record of a wild affair of the early 1930s, a record almost totally lacking in references to Paris during the Depression, has an eerie, timeless quality. Lacking the sense of time and place conveyed by details published in Diary 1, Henry and June has at its core the concreteness of the bodily self. In such a fashion, the sec­ond series of Nin’s diaries has begun. What’s next? 


Note: The “Djuna” story became once again available in Anais: An Interna­tional Journal 7 (1989): 3-22.


*From Anais: An International Journal 6 (1988): 27-32. Reprinted in The Critical Response to Anais Nin (Greenwood Press, 1996).

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Adventures in the Nin Trade

Note: What follows is the first is a series of postings regarding the career, art, and reputation of Anais Nin. This piece was published in the initial volume of A Café in Space: the Anais Nin Literary Journal (2003). However, readers will soon realize that it is primarily a memoir, a companion piece to my remembrance of Nin that appeared in Recollections of Anais Nin by Her Contemporaries (1996) edited by Benjamin Franklin V. I hope to post (republish) that piece as well as several interpretive essays in the near future.


Some ten or so years ago, at about the same time that I was preparing Anais Nin and Her Critics for Camden House, I proposed a book that would collect my own essays on Nin and weave a career narrative – the story of my own “Nin Career” – around and through them. The book would thus be the illustrated story of one scholar’s engagement with an author’s work over a period of three decades. In thinking about Gunther’s invitation to write “something personal about your long-standing relationship with Anais’s work” (letter of October 18, 2001), I remembered that proposal. In it, I had already prepared some of the story. However, though I am a meticulous file-keeper and document-scrounge, I can find no hint of that proposal or that fledgling narrative. I must begin again – and now it’s a story of over four decades.  I will present it in abbreviated form. It is a story told by a just-retired college professor who met Nin’s work as an undergraduate student and, more or less, fell in love.

It is also a story that began again only yesterday (on December 19, 2001), when I received a call from a total stranger – a man named Steven Fazio – who had discovered that I resided in Naples, Florida and wanted to sit down with me to have some serious conversation about Nin on one of his regular trips to my town from his home in Tampa. He had discovered Nin through my Anais Nin Reader (1973), and he had collected and read and studied her writings ever since. He had found a link to my home page on an Anais Nin web page. The internet provides the latest version of the widening circle impulse, set in motion so many years ago by the Centing and Franklin newsletter Under the Sign of Pisces: Anais Nin and Her Circle. This periodical was the first respectable home for the discussion of Nin’s work, and it launched the careers of most Nin scholars of that generation, including myself. I hope to sit down with Steven soon.

But my story, like Steven Fazio’s, begins with the excited discovery of Nin’s writing, a discovery that quickly led to infatuation.

It began during the academic year 1960-1961 with my discovery of the then-new Swallow Press editions of Nin’s work in Greenwich Village bookshops. At nineteen, I was smitten. In a letter dated some ten years later (May 28, 1971), writing to her from Georgetown University, I told a version of the tale to Nin herself:

Dear Miss Nin,

      Let me begin by telling you a little story: a variation on a theme you’ve no doubt heard many times before.

     After some false starts at the University of Maryland, finally finding my proper vocation to be literary study, I uprooted myself and in the fall of 1960 moved to New York to attend the New School for Social Research. At that school and around Greenwich Village many new vistas opened before me. I began to feel that the psychological approach to literary art was most congenial for me (through courses taught by such men as Gerald Sykes); I began to explore my own potential as a writer; and, in the 8th Street bookshops, discovered the Swallow editions of your works. Intrigued, I avidly read your books as they became available to me, studied them, began to compile notes, and followed your career through the succeeding ten years.


I didn’t tell Nin then of the amazing piece of luck that came my way at a used bookstore near the 92nd Street YM/WHA where I found, for 25 cents, a copy of the Gemor Press Under a Glass Bell (1944) that is still in my collection. Was it fate?

       The letter continues:

      Along the way, I obtained my B.A., M.A., and now my Ph.D. This formal study kept my continuing interest from reaching any useful issue, but I knew all that while that part of my career – an important part – would be dedicated to teaching and writing about your work. The first real opportunity came this past fall when I was able to include A Spy in the House of Love in one of my courses. From this came an essay soon to appear [in truncated form] in the newsletter that Mr. Centing has been editing.

 From here, the letter pitches the idea of the Anais Nin Reader, the story of which I have already told in my memoir of Nin that appears in Benjamin Franklin V’s Recollections of Anais Nin by Her Contemporaries, 1996.

 Those ten years between the discovery of Nin’s work and the initiation of a career as a Nin scholar were frustrating years in which I found few people with whom to share my enthusiasm for her writing. I did, indeed, compile an impressive, if informal, bibliography of primary and secondary sources that served me well later on. I read otherwise unavailable titles in the Rare Book Room at the Library of Congress. In fact, sometime during that decade, I went to hear Nin give a talk at the LC. All the while, her poetic prose moved me. It fed the romantic side of my sensibilities during a very late adolescence and through early adulthood. It countered my graduate school studies in 18th Century British Literature – “The Age of Reason.” When Nin’s Djuna struck up vaguely erotic and potentially liberating relationships with young men too mired in reason (or at least “authority”) for their own good, I vicariously joined the entourage. I admired and required the lesson of personal evolution, of change and growth, of stability’s dangers, of the need for a youthful perspective that defies limitation. I still do.

 When the time came, in the early 1970s, to declare myself a Nin scholar, there was little in this identity to commend me to the academic world. Pieces in Pisces, a review essay on Evelyn Hinz’s trailblazing book in The Journal of the Otto Rank Association, a review of Diary IV in the Washington Post – these small efforts led to the Reader and, over time, to a series of Nin projects through which I found myself peculiarly positioned. Meanwhile, the work of other scholars helped build Nin study into a respectable field, though even today a marginal one.

 While I always admired her work-and parts, at least, of her exemplary life in art- I more and more found her writing uneven and limited. I wanted to join with others in praising her worth, but I did not find it possible to be uncritical. I could not deify her. After a while, I found myself a reluctant partisan, locked in battles with people I labeled (privately?) as sycophants. I remember speaking out after a series of enthusiastic papers at a Modern Language Association meeting (one of the New York ones, I believe), and getting verbally pelted by the majority on hand. To raise questions or doubts about the stature of Nin’s achievement or the rigor of argument behind another scholar’s fulsome praise was to be in the wrong room.  But I felt that to over-praise was, in the long run, to do Nin’s art a disservice.

 These issues came up in my own reviewing, both of Sharon Spencer’s book and Nancy Scholar’s. At least with Scholar I had found a “bad guy” whose Nin-bashing far exceeded my own. Next to hers, my reservations seemed (and are) quite tame.

 No career, or even career strand, is without disappointments. Though I feel fortunate to have earned a place of some prominence in the ongoing conversation about Nin’s life and art, I’ve met with several setbacks. There is no need to present a whiny catalogue; I’ll only mention here my failure to complete a project into which I invested considerable time at the UCLA library and elsewhere. I had noticed, imbedded in Nin’s manuscript diaries, a series of letters from Rank to Nin, only a small portion of which had been published. Though I transcribed them and was prepared to publish them with an introduction, I was never able to obtain the necessary permission. Because that relationship had already become a primary concern of my scholarship, I felt an intense frustration. Looking back, this feeling has diminished to a minor irritation.

 In my central writings, I found it useful to pursue my original attraction: the psychological dimensions of Nin’s art. I wrote less – through the seventies and eighties – about her shortcomings as a writer and more about what she drew upon, how her fictions worked, what key personality dynamics they probed, and the genre issues regarding the border between fiction and autobiography. My contributions to the special 1978 issue of Mosaic (“Doubles/Don Juans: Anais Nin and Otto Rank”) and to Sharon Spenser’s 1986 anthology (“The Princess and the Frog: Anais Nin and Otto Rank”) kept me out of arguments about the measure of Nin’s esthetic achievement.  But it wasn’t long before I was gauging my position in the next battle: Nin’s stature as a truth-teller. My comments on the Henry and June volume (“Dropping Another Veil” in Anais 6, 1988) engaged this issue.

 Along the way, I realized that these critical arguments had a much longer history than I had suspected. I discovered that the shape of Nin’s career – her critical reception and its meaning – was a fascinating story in itself.

 One job that had to be done was to pin down certain aspects of that career: those that had to do with networking and self-publishing. This interest in the sociology and economics of literary production actually had its roots in my long-abandoned interest in Restoration and 18th-century British Theatre. Here, I had done work on the situation of the playwright: how plays were selected, how theatrical bills were determined, how playwrights were paid, and related matters. Art has a social and economic context that is often disregarded. In the case of Nin, I prepared a careful study on “The Gemor Press” that appeared in the second issue (1984) of this remarkable annual, Anais: An International Journal. I followed it up one year later with a “networking” story: “Oscar Baradinsky’s ‘Outcasts:–Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Maya Deren and the Alicat Bookshop Press.” Later came “A Delicate Battle Cry: Nin’s Pamphlets of the 1940’s” (no. 8, 1990), which is of bibliographical interest and provides a glance at Nin’s early esthetic self-positioning. She was, in these works and elsewhere, attempting to establish the grounds for the critical debate that would swirl around her. To my dismay, many critics would appeal to Nin’s self-justifications rather than bring other relevant criteria of judgment to bear on the assessment of her work.

 It had become clear by now that one of my major areas of contribution to Nin studies would be to examine the debate itself. The 1993 issue of Anais included my “Issues in Nin Criticism,” a preliminary borrowing from the monograph Anais Nin and Her Critics that appeared the same year. My goal here had been to read everything and act as a fair referee. Nonetheless, I didn’t work too hard, or hard enough, at hiding my prejudices. Having prepared myself to perform the task of tracing Nin’s career by mapping out the history of critical responses, I was more than ready to produce a companion effort. The collection of essays titled The Critical Response to Anais Nin (1996) essentially completed that project. A retrospective gathering, the book is designed to represent the range of positions on Nin’s work over six decades. For me it was the matching bookend to the selection of Nin’s own work published twenty-three years earlier.

 For all of this interest in stepping back to define the Nin story in these ways, I haven’t fully resisted the temptation to return to her works and to comment on them. Two companion pieces of 1997 explore what Nin reveals and hides, where she succeeds and where she (pardon me once again) fails. These are “The Burden of Self: Some Thoughts on The Early Diary of Anais Nin, 1927-1931” (Anais 15) and “The Men in Nin’s (Characters’) Lives,” which is included in Suzanne Nalbantian’s Anais Nin: Literary Perspectives. Also, in my ongoing fool’s errand to have the last word about my topics, I have contributed many entries on Nin to major reference works and written review essays on the full-length biographies by Noel Riley Fitch and Deirdre Bair.

 Yes, it is a fool’s errand and a vain wish: to have the last word. It can’t be done, yet I believe that most of us who work in the Nin trade and in other areas of literary study almost believe it can. In our wiser moments, we know that we are only players and that we contribute to a continuing process. If we didn’t know this truth, even a superficial reading of Nin would set us straight-becoming. That’s all we have, and it is everything: the possibility and power of transformation. The primary creative act of self-making, we learn, is an act that is all process and has no end before our death – and perhaps no end after our death, either.

So, I sit here over forty years a Nin devotee, over thirty years an academic adventurer in the Nin trade. I began reading and writing about a woman who was very much a living author, and as I write this she has been gone for almost a quarter century. But like any powerful and inspiring talent, she is all around. That is why Steven Fazio called me the other day. That’s why just two days earlier, I received a forwarded email note from Dr. Vicki Hufnagel, who cared for Anais during her fatal bout with ovarian cancer and who writes that Anais “served as an angel vision in my own life.” Even on her deathbed, Anais Nin could bring the gift of the journey, the acceptance of flux. To Dr. Hufnagel she brought a new understanding of self, of possibilities for healing that lay beyond the doctor’s rigid, structured medical work. “In time she told me my words would be my knife,” writes Vicki Hufnagel. And so Anais’s story of mutability now becomes Vicki’s, and Vicki will tell her story of Anais, and we will read that, too, and be changed.

December 20, 2001

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