Valerie Harms is the author of 10 books and numerous articles. She has had residencies at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Edna St. Vincent Millay Colony, Djerassi, and Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain). A teacher of workshops around the country (plus Greece and Vancouver), she has been a C.G.Jung scholar as long as she has been a Nin scholar. For 5 years she was a science editor at the National Audubon Society and for 15 years edited the quarterly Distinctly Montana magazine. Website: valerieharms.com
When this book was first published, I did not want to read it as I’ve read reams of material about Nin. But then I learned that the author was the co-writer and creator of the “Before Sunrise” film series, which I greatly admired, and so I read it. I can recommend it to all — with some caveats. Sp
The book is based on Krizan’s Masters Thesis and material she found in Nin’s papers stored at UCLA and Nin’s home which Nin had shared with her partner Rupert Pole. The book divides Nin’s life into major demarcations and short sections in which there are repetitions and cliched prose.
I strongly recommend the book though for the chapters entitled “What to Wear to a Childhood Abandonment” and “Costumes for a Great Drama.” In these chapters Kirzan’s provides many insights into why Anaïs dressed so dramatically — in long dresses and capes, with kohl rimming her eyes — a habit that intrigued many of us. After the family was abandoned by the father, Nin’s Maman spent much money on designer clothes for her daughter. Nin writes, “I took pleasure in letting my cape float in the breeze. It’s a feeling that always makes me think of poets. And a cape can make you believe that you are someone powerful like Napoleon, or a queen with a cloak of diamonds and rubies, or just a girl dressed ‘in the fashion of France.’”
Disclosure: I am a “ninny” (as William Rossa Cole — author, editor of over 80 books of poetry, humor, and children’s stories) dubbed fans of Nin’s work & person. As I said, I have read a lot by and about Nin, including the unpublished material in the Special Collections dept. at Northwestern University. I have a few things to add. One, Kirzan only mentions Gunther Stuhlmann as Nin’s agent. The fact is John Ferrone of Harcourt Brace & World was the agent for Delta of Venus and Little Birds, Nin’s popular high-brow erotic stories. Another fact not mentioned is that Alan Swallow who founded The Swallow Press in his home basement published all of Nin’s fiction and her book on D. H. Lawrence. Swallow also co-published with Harcourt Brace &World Volumes I & II of The Diary of Anaïs Nin. He provided a great resource to those of us who have followed Nin.
Kirzan’s book includes quotes from many letters to and from Nin. She also dwells at length on Nin’s relationships to Ian Hugo and Rupert Pole. She is partial to Pole because he hosted her at their home in Los Angeles. I lived on the East Coast and met Nin several times at the apartment she shared with Hugo, her legal husband. Since Nin carried on these relationships in the days before the Internet and other media, she controlled the communications back and forth relatively well. When I saw Nin with Hugo in NYC, she seemed affectionate toward him. I believe she loved Pole too. In much writing about Nin’s bonds, the emphasis is on the “split” Nin must have suffered. I beg to differ. What if she sincerely loved both men and did her best to embrace those loves. It’s enormously difficult but also creative to hold two conflicting drives together. She managed successfully and both men at the end of their lives loved and admired her.
I had the symbolic pleasure of hosting both men on my patio after Nin’s death to honor the publication of Volume VII of the Diary. They kept to separate corners but were cordial with everyone and each other.
On another personal note, I at one point went to see Dr. Inge Bogner, the NYC psychiatrist, whom both Anaïs and Hugo went to for help resolving their crises. After one visit I could understand why. Dr. Bogner asked me a simple, practical question that put my problem in perspective. (I wonder how many of us Ninnys beat a path to her door). Nin went to Bogner for 30 years until her death; she once inscribed a book to her, writing “with devotion and admiration for your unusual insight and sustained objectivity and patience.”
I — and so many others who’ve read or met Nin — had the feeling that Anaïs created a heartfelt connection. Thus, it’s easy to plunge into Nin’s world again by reading Kirzan’s book thanks to Moira Collins Griffin (maintainer of this blog). Moira herself is fascinating in many gifted ways.