Getting to know lust, love, and Anaïs Nin (1903-1977).
In 1962, a month before she turned 18, Rainer (Your Life as Story, 1997, etc.) met Cuban-born Nin, the noted diarist, famous lover of Henry Miller, and popular erotica author, at Nin’s Greenwich Village apartment while on an errand for her godmother, Lenore Tawney, the noted fabric artist. Rainer was attending a Catholic high school and still a virgin. She met Nin’s supportive husband, Hugo Guiler, Caresse Crosby, founder of Black Sun Press, and Nin’s 30-something friend Jean-Jacques. In a Delta of Venus manner, the impressionable author describes how she went with them to a night club, danced, drank, smoked pot, and, later, experienced with Jean-Jacques what “today…would likely be considered a form of date rape.” So begins her spicy and saucy hybrid of memoir and novel. This gives her the freedom to fictionalize events and encounters whenever she feels it appropriate. Over the next 15 years, up to Nin’s death in 1977, she became a close friend and mentor to Rainer, encouraging her writing and advising her on lifestyle matters—mostly sexual. Rainer became a devotee of Nin’s philosophy of life: “A woman has an equal right to pleasure as a man.” She was dazzled by Nin’s persona, beauty, and sexual history. When Rainer became a college professor—she eventually went on to co-found the UCLA Women’s Studies Program—she was able to have Nin give talks to her students. She enjoyed her new life of sexual freedom, the parties, new friends, and trips, many to visit Nin’s other husband in California, the “gorgeous” Rupert Pole, getting herself awkwardly involved in Nin’s secret, two-husband juggling act. 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 loveable.”
Feminists and fans of Nin’s work will enjoy this unique insider’s portrait of a complex, pivotal figure in women’s liberation.