Archive for the ‘Anais Nin’ Category

Lying

February 8, 2014

IMG_0683The man and his wife were an older couple, obviously married for a long time as the woman smiled knowingly as her husband launched into an engaging dialogue with me on the subject of lying. His sharp mind leapt to the intellectual challenge as a cat to a mouse.  Whatever led us to that topic?  Lying, now there’s a thing to be defined.

I was already fascinated by these two people even before they admitted they had a private book collection of 20,000 books (probably more than I had in my bookstore) and had no intention of quitting their passion now.  They bought scholarly history books, plant identification books, and mysteries.  I would guess by his oratorical voice that he was a former  professor, or maybe a pastor.

Remember the old song “Fifty Ways to Leave a Lover”?   How many ways of lying?  Does lying come with as many definitions as the Eskimos’ words for snow?  I told the man “I don’t lie…well, not directly…well, maybe once that I can remember…for someone else.”  But if you include lying by omission then I am a great liar.    Libel or malicious, intentional lying – no.  Fabrication – no.  Exaggeration – maybe.  Moving along the continuum into “simple” dishonesty…dishonesty  about who you are or your intentions –  I don’t think so.   Mistakes not corrected, such as the wrong change – no.  Stealing – no.  Betrayal is a form of the lie and is — in my philosophy— the worst sin.  Have I ever betrayed anyone – I don’t think so.   I do feel like I have betrayed some animals.

The afore-mentioned great conversation I had with the charismatic debater has now faded into memory.   Yet I return to the subject of lying because I participate in the one form of writing which should have the highest standard of truth-telling: the private diary.  Here, at last, one is unleashed from all restraint.  The bold, naked truth can be told.  No one to impress, no politics to play, no fear of social rejection, no hurt feelings of friends or family.  (That is, if it can be kept private.)  Why would you EVER lie in your journal?

Most famously, it is said that my favorite diarist, Anais Nin, fabricated stories in her diary. Do I believe this?  This was a woman married to two men at the same time, flying back and forth to see them, keeping a notebook of her lies so she would not forget what she told each man.  That’s quite a lie.  I pass no judgment there.  If she really did make up parts of the diary though, I feel betrayed.  I will read it as fiction.  It is good fiction, no, it is astonishingly beautiful and insightful fiction.  Her writing is all poetry.

But why did she do this – lie?  The only lying in my journals is where I am fooling myself into believing what is not true.  I try not to omit details that would reveal truth.  I try to quote accurately.  I never intentionally lie in my journals.  I want the truth to be told…at last…to someone (the unknown reader of the future)…and this outweighs my fear of being judged.  We are all judged.  We all judge others.

Are you familiar with the story of King Midas?  Let the truth be told in your journals.  “King Midas has asses ears.”

Who lies in their diary?

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Anais Nin: A Legend of Journal Writing

September 6, 2011

Passionate, intense, emotional, deep, lyrical, magical,  intuitive, highly perceptive of the subtleties of human behavior, deceptive, sensuous, exotic, erotic…these are all adjectives I would use to describe the writings of Anais Nin, queen of the diary.  There are so many complexities to her life that Anais Nin will remain forever a tantalizing mystery to her biographers, as I suspect she was during her life to her friends and lovers.  One of her favorite words was “labyrinth.”  Nin was a labyrinth! I have read that no one is lukewarm about Nin or her writings.  You either love her or hate her.  Put me on the side of love.

In 1971, in a dusty used bookstore in Point Reyes Station, California, I reached for a slim volume of prose: Under a Glass Bell.  In that moment I connected with the woman who was to become a major influence in the way I thought about women writers and the diary.   At the time, I scarcely knew there were women writers, and I had been keeping my own diary only eight years.

Under A Glass Bell (published in 1944) was an astonishing discovery for me.  Even in 1971, women writers were rarely acknowledged and their work and their way of seeing the world was dismissed as frivolous, rarely admitted as serious literature.  I know because I was an English lit major and we read only male writers.  In a college course in 1968, my textbook of 100 poets had only one woman poet, and that was, of course, Emily Dickinson.

As for keeping a diary, such writing was considered of little merit, particularly if you were a woman, were not a famous artist or writer, and were not involved in a historic event.  Until the early seventies, and the dawn of the Women’s Movement and the promotion of women’s writing, I don’t believe diaries were  even considered a “genre” of writing.

It is still a struggle to find acceptance for this style of writing.  Keeping a diary is frequently believed to be more of a self-indulgence than a serious attempt to deepen life and expand the boundaries of experience.    Just try saying, if you are among a group of writers and are asked what you write,   “I am a diarist,” without being met with a dismissive indifference or superiority.

Anais Nin liberated my thinking.  I soon found her diaries and began devouring them.  I was in my early twenties and I wanted to be Nin. (My own diaries began changing – deeper, more explicit. )  I was most impressed with her analysis of people and relationships and the way she described the nuances of interaction and the layers of meaning in experiences.    Next I read her continuous novel: Cities of the Interior.  In my 40s I returned to Nin and read her pornography, and then Henry and June, the unexpurgated version, (made into a very erotic movie  with look-alike Maria de Medeiros.) Last of all, I read her thought-provoking essays and lectures (she was a popular speaker on college campuses).

I deeply regret that I was never able to meet her.  (I do have an inscribed copy of Cities of the Interior.)  Recently I listened to a tape of an interview she did in 1971 with Studs Terkel.  What a beautiful voice.  There are many interviews available on the internet.

For those already familiar with Nin, I have found A Cafe in Space: The Anais Nin Literary Journal, online.  I think most of her books are available as ebooks as well as real books.

There are websites devoted to Anais Nin quotes.  As a collector of quotes over many years, here are some favorites:

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”

“…Beware…love never dies of a natural death.  It dies because we do not know how to replenish its source, it dies of blindness and errors and betrayals.  It dies of illness and wounds, it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings, but never a natural death.  Every lover could be brought to trial as the murderer of his own love.”

“War is the great pleasure of people whose love is atrophied, who need war to feel alive, who find in violence and clash a semblance of relationship.  Relationship by hatred.”

So, here is my second favorite published diarist, and if you have never experienced her writings before then you are missing a truly unique writer who can transport you to the “cities of the interior.”


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