Friday, December 29, 2017

Tristine Rainer's 'Apprenticed to Venus: My Secret Life with Anaïs Nin' (2017)

Tristine Rainer, Apprenticed to Venus: My Secret Life with Anaïs Nin. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2017.

An insightful and entertaining journey, focusing on the period from the early 1960s until Nin's death in 1977. We learn a lot about Rainer's lives -- inner and outer -- and about Anaïs Nin and some of her core relationships. There's also much about the creation of art through living and writing -- including the interconnection of diaries, memoirs, novels and essays. 

Synchronicity: in the last post -- on James Brown and the American South -- James McBride discussed the use of "masks" by people in order to live in the world. Here, too, Rainer and Nin delve into the same concept, with a Jungian flavor.

Nin had spoken a Jungian "riddle" about persona masks: "The mask should be held eighteen inches in front of the face." (page 330)

Who is the inner person, and who is a projection, or is there any difference? (Good question in the Age of Trump).

Tristine Rainer: "I had confused a lot of masks with myself. . . Anaïs certainly had worn masks, too -- dazzling creations, their beauty attracting her followers . . . Maybe she was saying that personas, while seductive and useful, are not the dancer, and like the dancer's fan, they can be discarded, replaced, or retrieved when the music changes." (pages 330-331) 

Rainer quotes Hugo Guiler, speaking to Anaïs near the end of her life: "You were a creature of flight and had to fulfill your nature." (page 345)

Anaïs tells Rainer: "You must complete yourself . . . You must own your own wildness!" (page 213)

Rainer's description of meeting Henry Miller in 1965 is mordant. Anaïs needed his blessing in order to publish her diary volumes with him in it -- he was all the rage in 1965. His novel Tropic of Cancer, finally published in the USA, had been cleared of obscenity charges by the Supreme Court in 1964. 

What Rainer saw in Miller, then seventy-five: "When Henry opened the door to his surprisingly conventional white ranch house [in California], I saw a bald troll holding onto a walker, and my heart sank. Anaïs air-kissed his wrinkled, sagging cheeks." And: "His troll eyes twinkled." (page 241).

My only wish for any new editions of Apprenticed to Venus: My Secret Life with Anaïs Nin?  An index.

Wallace Fowlie (1908-1998), with whom I became friends near the end of his life, told many gripping stories about Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin. He knew them both and corresponded with them, but especially with Miller. He was a great correspondent and also sent me several letters, which are now part of the Wallace Fowlie Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. It gives me a tingle to note that letters from Anaïs Nin to Wallace are in Box 2 and letters to me from Wallace are in Box 5. Here's a link to the guide. 

It's a small world after all -- as Tristine Rainer writes about so well. 

p.s. Anaïs Nin is often thought of as purely French, but her parents were Cuban and she spent much of her life in the USA. 

Today's Rune: Growth. 

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I recognize the names, of course, but know very little about the personal life of these folks. I need another life time just to read the biographies I'd like to