Spy in the House of Anaïs Nin by Kim Krizan

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 As I said, I have read a lot by and about Nin, including the unpublished material in the Special Collections dept.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.

March 30, 1974 Taj Mahal Hotel

March 30, 1974

Dear Moira I was very happy to receive the beautiful calligraphy and design. I was concerned not to have heard from you since I told you I wrote my Mexico diary in your Sun book, I loved it so much. I’m glad your taking this art seriously.

Writing you on my writing paper collection-this place I never went to and I saved the paper sent to use for the Diary but for you I part with a page!

Should I return the photographs now that I have enjoyed your designs? I won’t know in time as I leave April 7 for a lecture in San Francisco and then for New York for Vol 5 and a talk at New School.

A letter from you is highly decorative and all the pain is dissolved in the legend which (is) described by Hesse.

Only a few words as I have not yet recovered my full energy. Love, Anaïs

July 15, 1974

July 15, 1974

Dear Moira

What a beautiful diary book-just in time for my assignment to visit and write about Noumcea, Port Vila and Bali. I will be gone for 5 weeks-no address. It will be a rest from pressures. Work piles up. Editing lectures (anthologized by Evelyn Hinz but I have to revise wording) If I have time before I leave I will send you a book by a fellow calligraphist which I’m not sure I understand but you may. When you have looked at it you can send it back.

You make such beautiful use of calligraphy the note book I could not resist writing in was one one filled with suns and quotes.

Also working on Vol 6, turning down lectures, writing prefaces for friends’ books.

As Vol 5 is lamenting my “failure” as a writer, to console you I ‘m sending the “honors” I am now receiving.

If you go to the Women Writer’s Conference you will see a documentary on my work and life called

AN Observed. Love, Anaïs

Happy Birthday Anaïs @115

Anaïs Nin Letters Her Correspondence with a Young Fan

This collection of letters from Anaïs Nin to Moira Griffin, mentioned in her last Diary, is being printed with the help of Greensfelder Design in Chicago so the letters will not disappear in the Archives of Avalon. Being a calligrapher for many years and having enjoyed the now long lost art of letter-writing, she still believes in the words of William James, “As long as there are postmen, life will have zest.” www.avalonarchives.com

We just received the wrap around cover of this book of letters from Anaïs to Moira Griffin. We will post the cover as soon as we have a jpeg.

Although this book will be a limited edition because of the cost we hope to be able to post some of the pages on the blog when it has been upgraded by the end of spring.

Meanwhile, we wish to thank our premium kite flyer, Anaïs on the occasion of yet another birthday celebrating another year of kite-flying.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country”….a new book!

Closer to Home

Nin intimate, Judith Citrin has written a book Closer to Home (available on Amazon) that was just published this summer.

As Judith writes:

This small book has had a very long gestation. Decades ago I felt the impulse to set down unusual happenings that were occurring in my apparently ordinary suburban life. Since then I have observed what seemed to be a thread connecting the events, both inner and outer, running through the many years of my journey to what I have known as truth. It is my hope that what I share here might help light the way for other wayfarers who may be in confusion as non ordinary events occur in their own lives. Included in this testimony are examples of words I heard and wrote down as they came in meditations over the course of 26 years. And now the time has come for the birth of my story.

This slim volume is a mesmerizing read. It does also describes Nin and Citrin’s friendship. I kept thinking while reading it of Hafiz’s lines.

“This place you are right now, God has circled on a map for you.”

Best Summer Read: Apprenticed to Venus: My Secret Life With Anaïs Nin (Tristine Rainer)

Just recently downloaded this best summer read, when Thinking of Anaïs Nin colleague, editor and writer Valerie Harms sent me an email telling me it was out. I checked out Trintine Rainer’s site and found this terrific review of her newest book. I would have purchased the hardcover version, but am traveling, so sent the hardcover to a friend.

“Getting to know lust, love, and Anaïs Nin….In 1962, Rainer (Your Life as Story, 1997, etc.) met Cuban-born Nin, the noted diarist, while on an errand for her godmother…So begins her spicy and saucy hybrid of memoir and novel…. Over the next 15 years… she became a close friend and mentor to Rainer (and) Rainer became a devotee of Nin’s philosophy of life: “A woman has an equal right to pleasure as a man.”…Over time, she realized that Nin was a “deeply flawed person—a narcissist, a bigamist, a liar, and a deviant,” but she was also “so lovable.” Feminists and fans of Nin’s work will enjoy this unique insider’s portrait…”

We will be redesigning this blog, and when the new template that will match our sites theme is redesigned and we become comfortable with Word Press, we wanted you to be able to enjoy “the best summer read”.

My Secret Life with Anaïs Nin
By Tristine Rainer


In 1966, Anaïs Nin, author of the erotic bestseller Delta of Venus and Parisian lover to Henry Miller, published her intimate diaries and became a feminist icon of the sexual revolution, proclaiming:

“A woman has as much right to pleasure as a man!”

In reality, Nin was far from free, entrapped in a life of deception, married simultaneously to two husbands between whom she could not choose.

Tristine Rainer met Nin before her rise to fame. As an 18-year-old virgin from the San Fernando Valley, Rainer was sent on an errand to Anaïs’ Greenwich Village apartment and became entranced by the older woman’s world of sensuality and sophistication. She begged Anaïs’ guidance in becoming a woman, eventually following in her mentor’s footsteps of adventurous passion.

As Tristine is manipulated into running interference and spying to protect the secret of Anaïs’ bigamy, the danger and excitement of Anaïs’s life brings Tristine herself perilously close to the edge. A moving look at the intimacy—and risks—of the female mentor-protégé relationship, Apprenticed to Venus stories a deep friendship, for good or ill, with a pivotal historical figure.

Tristine Rainer: Remembering John Ferrone

Remembering John Ferrone
who died 4/10/2016

Anaïs Nin introduced me to John Ferrone, her Harcourt Brace Jovanovich editor at her Silverlake, California house where she lived with Rupert Pole as his wife. John, a New Yorker, knew her other husband, Hugo Guiler, as well and was privy to the secret of Anaïs’ double life. As one of the most grace-full men I have known, both in his manner and his movements, he was at ease in the world of sexual/emotional discretion. He’d lived the life of an undisguised gay man of 1950’s in New York, and it was a world he negotiated with integrity and subtlety.

In 1978 when I published my first book The New Diary in hardbound, John made an offer to my publisher Jeremy Tarcher, for Harcourt to acquire the paperback rights. Although he was contractually obligated to inform me of the offer, Tarcher without my knowledge rejected the Harcourt offer out of hand. When I learned from John that he’d made the trade paperback offer while no one had told me, he was outraged. He was a genteel literary editor, a breed that has all but disappeared, a man of honor who pledged his impressive gifts to enhance the work of his authors and stay in the background. He was modest about the vast improvements he made in Anaïs Nin’s prose.

Anaïs, who most valued spontaneity in writing, once told me dismissively flicking her fingers, “Punctuation, grammar, that’s for editors.” John did far more than correct her unschooled grammar and punctuation, though. He highlighted the intelligence and emotional wisdom in her outpourings while giving her work an aesthetic subtlety it would otherwise lack.

Because of his commitment to make Anaïs’ writing shine in the best light, John’s relationship with Rupert became antagonistic after her death. Each man complained to me about the other. Rupert wanted to preserve Anaïs’ every word as she wrote it. He was working with John on Harcourt’s publication of her posthumous erotic work. John was dedicated to making her writing as honed as possible, which required cutting and shaping. They both loved her and her memory and, as with so many people who have loved her or her work, felt an almost irrational exclusive ownership of her. Yet on another occasion I recall an evening when John and Rupert were as jovial as two teenage buddies together. I was then in my 30’s and working as President of Grand Central Films, a co-venture between Thames Television and an American production company. I wanted to option the Diaries as a network television mini-series. Since John was visiting L.A. and I then had an unlimited expense account, I invited John and Rupert to an expensive trendy restaurant near paramount. They were adorable, each vying to be the most charming and witty, like competing beaus. Anaïs was gone but her flirtatious spirit was with us that night.

In later years I would phone John when I visited New York and he would always make time to take me to lunch or dinner or, even better, cook for me. We both enjoyed literary gossip and swapping stories about Anaïs’ foibles and secrets. He was lonely after his partner died, and for such a reserved gentleman, warm and vulnerable when he talked about the importance-the centrality-of love in our lives.

I recall only one disagreement between John and myself, it was just a half-full/half empty difference in perspective. I had been admiring Anaïs’ tenacity in working on herself, in transforming herself from a neurotic, frustrated unpublished writer into a joyous woman who shared her hard-won success and wisdom with others. John bemoaned that Anaïs enjoyed the publication of her Diaries and her emotional equanimity so late in her life. “She only had a few years before knowledge of her cancer ruined it.” he said, “it took her so long to get what she wanted. She enjoyed it so briefly.”

“But she got there. She realized her dreams,” I said.

He shook his head. “Too briefly.”

I understand those feelings now, John. You had a relatively long life, living despite Parkinsons Disease to 91. My regret is that our friendship blossomed only in your later years and lasted too briefly, too briefly.

Any typos in this posting are not due to its author, but to the scribe who typed it into html so that readers of the blog would be able to read it in a timely fashion. For readers who missed the New York Times obit (Thank you Steven Reigns for sending it on) please click here.