CHAPTER THREE (cont.)
The Celebrants Arrive
William Claire: I write poems and I’m the editor and publisher of “Voyages,” that famous quarterly magazine that hasn’t been out in about a year. I first met Miss Nin on a very sad occasion, a memorial service for the late Alan Swallow in New York. Anaïs was an original advisor – editor of my magazine and any association with her is somewhat like coming into New York and finding fresh air in a very polluted world.
James Mundy: I build pyramids. My foundations are in San Francisco right now, where I’ve been studying with small presses, printers and poets in the Bay area for about the last year and a half. I am soon to be publishing a book with my brother which I will print in San Francisco.
Trew Bennett: I’m a potter. I first found Under a Glass Bell on a dusty shelf in an antique shop and bought it. I’ve been in psychoanalysis for a number of years and am aware of the absence of descriptive literature concerning the experience. There are many books that give categories and case histories but it’s very hard to find a discussion of the very slow evolutionary process that takes place with all the attendant personal feelings about it. The Diaries of Anaïs Nin, especially Volume 111, touched on all sorts of personal things for me. I wrote to Anaïs Nin and she wrote back and I wrote again and she wrote back. I don’t know how she had the time to do this!
Rosalie Gleim: I am a teacher. When I worked on my dissertation, I was allowed to take Anaïs Nin as a topic. I’ve always been fascinated by the process of creation, by the process in which people take life and create art out of it and vice versa. People said to me, ‘Oh, you are a woman writing about a woman writer.’ And I answered, ‘I’m not writing about a woman writer. I’m writing about an artist, somebody who has said more about this creative process than anybody I’ve run across.’ People insisted that I write about her as a woman but that was never my point. James Joyce wrote as a man. We don’t call him a man artist, we call him an artist. I’d like to discuss this later.
Larry Sheehan: I live at the same address as Valerie. A lot of what I know about Anaïs Nin I have obtained through the atmosphere that was created by this whole Magic Circle thing. I think it was illustrated best just a week ago when Anaïs called the house when Valerie wasn’t there and I answered the phone and talked to her. Anyway, I was trying to talk to her as best I could, with the reputation she had at the other end of the line. In the middle of it – I was already confused someone started ringing at the door. So I had to excuse myself. I knew that wasn’t the right way to handle Miss Nin but I put the phone down and went to the door and it turned out to be a taxi cab driver bearing a telegram from Austin, Texas, from someone who wanted to be sure he could come this weekend! This was something in a long series of small stupefactions that I’ve experienced in the past year or so!
But I truly do appreciate Anaïs Nin’s work. When I had studied French literature in college I thought that I had pretty much covered the field, but after college I stumbled on some Colette who was never taught there, yet was better than anyone I had ever studied at college. I felt there was and still is a connection between the two women. I think the fact that Anaïs Nin is being appreciated today by so many people is a revenge in part for Colette’s having been blackballed. The only thing I really regret is that Colette had this school friend whose name was Anaïs, which according to the Diaries prevented Anaïs Nin in the 30’s and 40’s from ever looking up Colette, because I feel that it would have been a summit meeting of sorts.
And I myself am a writer. I had been employed as an editor and now I’ve given that up. I’m in the stream now.
Anaïs: There’s an interesting story about Colette that I must tell you about. They wanted to allow her into the French Academy and the judges couldn’t question the beauty of her style, but, they said, after all what does she write about, but love, relationships, motherhood, working in a music hall – all ”minor” themes! But she did get into the Academy.
Lele Krippner: . . . Life is strange. I met Laura Huxley who made a strange remark concerning you and through that remark I started to read your Diary. Then a friend of mine who often comes to Wainwright House sent me a circular about the Magic Circles weekend. My husband gave me this weekend for an anniversary present. So thanks to Laura Huxley and my husband, I’m here.
Moira Collins: I’m a writer and have collected and written commonplace books for a number of years. I was always searching for things that I thought might fit. I saw the Diaries one day and all of a sudden it occurred to me that for years I had been trying to pattern my life after men from whose commonplace books I had been collecting and writing. I didn’t feel as crazy as perhaps some people thought. I had always hand-done books for my friends with the thought that Henry Miller used to print books for friends which they were delighted to receive. So the Diaries to me were personally very important and I started giving them to everyone I knew.
Evelyn Frazier: Professionally I am a social worker, but on my own time I work very hard for the Women’s Movement.
Lisa Ekstrom: People say that I’m an artist and I would like to believe that. A couple of years ago my mother and I discovered the Diaries and read them and they brought us closer together than we had been before They also gave me just an incredible feeling of joy and strength to do things that I hadn’t thought maybe I could do.
Georgiana Peacher: I started writing some stories when I was 10 years old and that’s when I decided I’d be a writer. By the time I was 171 was quite influenced that this was a very impossible thing for a woman to do. So, completely convinced, I drifted along 30 years, becoming a speech therapist. But I didn’t save myself until Jive years ago when I was in the library looking up some technical texts. I hadn’t read any fiction for 30 years because in my field of science we were too busy, but somehow at this time my unconscious mind took me to the fiction department of the library and I went straight for these books – it’s very spooky – they were: House of Incest and Collages. These just changed my life and I went after every book by Anaïs Nin. Then the Diary came out, and I discovered a woman who had many feelings that I had but had suppressed. I wished I had done everything that I knew I wanted to do when I was 17. So I just decided to do it. I resigned my position and it’s exactly five years this month April that I left and started to become a writer full time.
Elaine Marks: With all due respect I’m a professor of French Literature. I have written a book on Colette and a book on Simone de Beauvoir. For a new book I’m very interested in women diary writers. I’ve been reading Virginia Woolf’s story in manuscript form at the New York Public Library. I just finished reading Anaïs Nin’s Diary.
Lele Stephens: I write poems. I was for many years a newspaper columnist but quit. For the Connecticut Feminists in the Arts, I co-produced a musical review and designed a book of poetry. Before the Women’s Movement and before Anaïs, I thought it was very unnatural to love women but since then I learned it is as natural as a bird’s wing.
Anne McGovern: I’m a writer. Besides being intrigued by Nin and writing, I was intrigued by these two women who could get a group like this together.
May Garelich: I write books for children. When I was growing up everybody I knew read Anaïs Nin. Now I find that all the young people I know are reading her books and are most enthusiastic. I’m here tonight for them too.
Evelyn Hinz speaks hurriedly, nervously: I’m a Canadian, so I’m an outsider here. I’m also a critic and that probably puts me in bad order. I want to talk tomorrow when I speak to you about Nin and her work, specifically how I came to her, so I’ll just tell you now that I’m from Saskatchewan and it’s very cold up there About five years ago we had one of our worst winters but suddenly about mid December there was a warm breeze which made everything unusually calm and beautiful in Saskatchewan. The weather officials and politicians were called in to find out where this warm breeze had come from. Finally someone recognized that there was a steady stream coming from the University Library. They traced it to the second floor. In fact in the American Literature section, in fact under N. House of Incest. And so Saskatchewan became very warm as a result of Nin’s coming there. Seriously, I was introduced to Nin’s work by a man, an uncouth-looking, bearded man, probably the kind of man you wouldn’t expect to be interested in Nin’s work but maybe that’s an aspect that needs exploring.
David Williams: I try to make a film whenever I can. From what I hear one of the most likely ways to come across your writing is through a gift from a friend. And that’s the first way I did. I skipped the Henry Miller stage. Henry Miller came after you. I think once you mentioned that the three most important things in your life were relationships, friendships and travel. I’m just beginning to grapple with those three things, and I would like to know more.
Jeffrey Mundy: I’m an artist and live in Washington, D.C. I first heard about Anaïs several years ago when a girlfriend of mine was reading her book for a year. I kept saying, ‘Aren’t you finished yet?’ After I read it, I carried it around with me for a year. Through Anaïs I discovered that I must become a whole person and that in order to become the artist I wanted to be, I had to read and draw or paint and write.
Shirley McConahay: I used to be an historian. I taught and with my husband collaborated on a book called Explorations in Sex and Violence. We spent several summers at the Kinsey Institute for Sexual Research, and I came away very intrigued with personal sex relationships. Then through your books I became caught up in looking at the world through feelings, how we split ourselves up and then struggle to bring ourselves back together.
Nadine Daily: Legitimately, I’m an architect, but clandestinely, I’m an astrologer, poet and philosopher. I recently took eight months off to write a novel, because I was tired of building monuments to the living dead. I rented my apartment to a friend of mine while I went away. When I came back there was a gift to me – a volume of the Diaries – and a letter from her saying ‘I think you and Anaïs Nin have something in common. It’s about time you met.’ I didn’t read the Diary then as I was too busy writing myself. About three weeks ago I went to the book store and spookily picked out Novel of the Future as the book I had to read. I read it and immediately after heard about Magic Circles and this weekend. I figured, that if I got the money from somewhere I would come. The money came, as it always has when something must be, so I called up Adele and said, “Okay, is there any room?” I got in just under the wire.
Ann Roche: I write for a newspaper and have done public relations work. I’m like a lot of women who started out very interested in writing and then something along the way happened to prevent it from happening. I became commercially oriented. When I was in college, there was a girl there who I always wanted to be: Sylvia Plath. When I heard that she had committed suicide, I felt that she had been punished by divine retribution for having achieved so much. My feeling was that a woman like her just can’t make it. Then I met Valerie Sheehan and some of the other people in the Women’s Liberation Movement and new doors opened. I started to believe again that women artists could make it and that’s really why I’m so glad to be here.
Joan Anacreon: I’m a painter. A few years ago I narrowly escaped drowning, which turned out to be a fortunate experience because I really began to live after that incident. I began to say yes to living and to paint seriously.
Anaïs Nin rises from her chair at the front of the room and smiles. She is responding to us but her words seem to go out of the room to people everywhere.
Nadine: the heavy vibrations as we introduce ourselves. Each person as they speak creates an aura of themselves potently explosive for personalization at other moments.
Trew: I hear, ‘Anaïs is my only friend! She is who I am inside. Through Nin I learned to be who I am.’ With all these simple phrases, the beauty is not only in the words, but in the earnest and honest open quality with which they are spoken.