I was honored to interview Paul Herron, editor of Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947–1955, which launches on May 15th.
You can read the interview in full at Go Deeper Press.
Lana Fox: Why is the unexpurgated diary of this time in Nin’s life called Trapeze?
Paul Herron: The diary begins in 1947, just after Anaïs Nin has met the young out-of-work actor and aspiring forest ranger Rupert Pole. Although Nin was in a 24-year-long marriage with the banker/engraver Hugo Guiler, she fell hard for Pole and accepted his astounding invitation to drive from New York to Los Angeles alone with him. At the time, Nin had been involved with many, many failed side relationships, vainly seeking the “One” who would answer her love fully, and she felt had met her match in Pole. But she did love her husband, in a fraternal way, and as he offered her love, care, comfort and security, she felt she could not divorce him. So, the first trip to California is the metaphorical first swing on a bicoastal trapeze, a term she herself uses several times in the diary. She lived the trapeze life for the rest of her life, doing her best to keep each man unaware of the other.
Lana Fox: I can only imagine how exciting it must be to have already read about Anaïs Nin’s “trapeze” life in the unexpurgated diary! What was it like to be the editor of Trapeze?
There is no question that there are so many treasures in the original diary, and many of them are completely unknown to the public. We hear about them second-hand in biographies and certain studies, but we don’t get to actually read what Nin herself wrote. It is an amazing privilege to edit her work, and I do it for one simple reason: it is valuable to other human beings. Of course, it is a massive undertaking—several thousand pages of mostly handwritten pages, some of which are out of order, all have to be transcribed. Nin’s handwriting is impeccable, but when one tries to decipher Rupert’s handwritten letters, or even Hugo’s sometimes, one needs to develop a system, almost like the one used to interpret hieroglyphics—this swiggle means this letter, that scratch means another. The biggest challenge is to find the story buried in this mountain of diary pages, and to devise a way to let Anaïs Nin tell it stunningly. This means a lot of detective work and, in the end, cutting and rearranging in a way that will thrill the reader. Despite the time and effort, it’s all worth it in the end, because it is a compelling diary, and, I feel, a very important addition to Nin’s overall canon.
Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start when speaking about censorship. There’s a lot of it around. Apple iBooks make me the angriest. They blocked, as in banned, one of our books because “transgender” was a keyword. The result? We at Go Deeper rarely submit books to them any more. Of course, tons of authors/publishers experience such bans from places like iBooks and Kobo. (Hat tip to Giselle Renarde.) Then there’s KDP, of course. They censor Go Deeper and trillions of other indies all over the place. Put “incest” in your blurb and watch them snub you for including valid and important information. Take it out, and they reward you.
They also recently censored Anais Nin’s Auletris, written long ago but only published now, because of a pair of naked breasts on the cover. Readers! Apparently, nipples are dangerous. (Maybe Amazon thinks we should all be smooth-breasted. Actually, just look at the boobs they censored on the cover of Johnny the Brave on the right — she might even be a flamin’ statue, folks. Click the image to find out what we eventually had to do this series’ covers. Just as pretty, but also pretty pointless.) Oh, and let’s not forget the almost non-existent content guidelines from KDP: “What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect,” they say. Those are their content guidelines.
But here’s why I love social media, especially Twitter:
We get to talk about it.
A prime example? #BannedByAmazon is a hashtag — and a fairly popular one at that. After all, KDP’s choice to ban certain books creates an aesthetic that many actively seek. Amazon have banned it? Then it interests many of us. Some of the greatest books in the world have been banned, of course. But the more we talk about bans, the harder it is to suppress said books. With Twitter, and other channels, we can give banned books a voice and share the links to B&N and Smashwords and other retailers who don’t ban books. It’s easy and vital to moan about those who do ban, but let’s also remember to praise those who don’t. And guess what comes up higher and higher in Google searches, the more we RT on Twitter? Tweets with links in them.
They ban it. We tweet it. Here are a few things our communities are saying:
Aghast at Amazon's censorship! It is unacceptable for large corporations to suppress the content we wish to access! https://t.co/8lBCiIh4tw
— Poetrianais (@PoetriAnais) October 21, 2016
— Paul Herron (@AnaisNinBlog) October 21, 2016
— Poetrianais (@PoetriAnais) October 24, 2016
— Hewson Founder (@HewsonJoystick) October 17, 2016
— Giselle Renarde (@GiselleRenarde) October 28, 2013
Have I told you lately that my book was #BannedbyAmazon? Apparently it offends them when imaginary people fuck their imaginary step-families
— Lexi Wood (@sockpuppetlexi) October 7, 2013
— Lana Fox (@foxlana) October 25, 2016
I was fortunate enough to read Anaïs Nin’s Auletris before its release, and let me tell you, it’s a delectable Bacchic feast. In Auletris, Nin has written deliciously forbidden, relentlessly hot stories that break boundaries and are truly courageous in the face of taboos. The heat in this collection does not let up and the language is so sublime that you’ll want to stuff whole paragraphs into your mouth. If you thought Delta of Venus and Little Birds were erotically inventive, you’ll be amazed by what Auletris has to offer. This is erotica filled with lush sensations, complex feelings, and cerebral genius. The work is so sensually alive that it’s hard to believe its superbly talented author is no longer with us.
Conversely, it’s proof that she still is.
I’m honored to discuss Auletris along with Paul Herron (the book’s editor and publisher, and leading specialist in all things Nin), Anain Bjorquist, Rose Caraway, and Jessica Gilbey. We had an absolutely wonderful and enticing discussion. Why not join us by listening to the podcast here (it’s the Auletris podcast with the “panel of experts.”)
If you love Anais Nin, check out my fan erotica collection:
“I finally decided to release the erotica for publication because it shows the beginning efforts of a woman in a world that had been the domain of men.” –Anaïs Nin in her preface to Delta of Venus
When I first read Delta of Venus, I didn’t read the preface. That’s why I had envisioned Anaïs Nin as a brazen rebel with no shyness, no fear. I was stereotyping of course, because it helped me to deal with all the feelings of shame that I held all those years ago, especially around sex — in a way, I needed to think of Anaïs Nin as fearless. Years later, however, I’d realize that she first wrote her stories for just a dollar a page, and believed that by getting her to “leave out the poetry” her client was really stripping her work of her true woman’s language.
“If you’re negative, you’re going to find causes for negativity. You will yourself build a case. Because we’re very clever. We’re much cleverer than we think we are. We build cases for our own moods. If you are convinced that you can’t make it, and you want to drop out, you’re going to find reasons for it. You can always build a case. There are all kinds of things lying around. But if you want to build a case for life being worth living then you build that too.” —Anaïs Nin in ‘The Artist as Magician’ (A Woman Speaks)
The more Anaïs Nin fans I meet, the more I realize that hoards of us have been saved by her writings. For me, both Delta of Venus and Incest were my saviors, both in different ways. As an incest survivor, I grew into a woman who was brimming with darkly erotic stories about incestuous affairs, but believed those inspirations to be a sign of my deep sins — proof that if there was a Hell, I was probably going there.
“I’m hellishly lonely. What I need is someone who could give me what I give Henry: this constant attentiveness. I read every page he writes, I follow up his reading, I answer his letters, I listen to him, I remember all he says, I write about him, I make him gifts, I protect him, I am ready at any moment to give up anybody for him, I follow his thoughts, enter into his plans — passionate, maternal, intellectual watchfulness.
“He. He cannot do this. Nobody can. Nobody knows how. It is an art, a gift.”
–Anaïs Nin in Incest: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin 1932 – 1934
Isn’t this just the way with those of us who give, give, give? I feel like I’ve spent my life working on boundaries — figuring out when to give with glorious commitment and when to say no, when to stop and look after myself. There are many great books about learning to say no, but one thing I’ve rarely been told is that giving is an art.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” –Anaïs Nin in Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin 1939-1947, ed. Paul Herron
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its popularity, I came across this quotation fairly early after my discovery of Anaïs and her writings. What I didn’t realize was that this beautiful line from her diary was crafted when she was looking at her life candidly and taking responsibility for difficult emotions. “I have created the isolation in which I find myself,” she writes in Mirages. “Life shrinks in proportion to one’s courage.” (As Paul Herron says, those were the original words Anaïs wrote in her diary. She edited them later, adding in “or expands.”)
I think Anais gives us a wonderful lesson here, as always: When we feel down or lost, that’s often when we can most deeply learn about our emotions. If we can see what got us to a dark place, painful though such vision can be, we can start to refuse the darkness.
We can expand.
“Her sex was like a giant hothouse flower, larger than any the Baron had seen, and the hair around it abundant and curled, glossy black. It was these lips that she rouged as if they were a mouth, very elaborately so that they became like blood-red camellias, opened by force, showing the closed interior bud, a paler, fine-skinned core of the flower.” — Anaïs Nin in ‘The Hungarian Adventurer’ (in Delta of Venus)
A long time ago, when I first arrived in the USA, I was taught how to write literary sex scenes. The instructor was fantastic, but also had strong opinions about not describing sex organs in any detail. Graphic descriptions of such bodily parts, he said, often came across as objectification and didn’t feel as sensuous. It would be years before I’d ask myself, “But if I can say ‘he reached for her arm’ why can’t I say ‘he reached for her cunt’? Why does my instructor see one as more objectifying than the other?” The answer, of course, is social shame — the same social shame that I eventually decided to fight.
“He churned, thrashing sensually as if he would make love once and forever, with his whole force. The candles burned away. Tristan and Isolde sand sadly. But Rupert and I twice were shaken by such tremors of desire and pleasure that I thought we would die, like people who touched a third rail in the subway tunnel.” —Anaïs Nin on her first lovemaking with Rupert Pole, excerpted in A Cafe in Space (ed. Paul Herron) vol. 13 from the forthcoming Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin 1947-1955
As a writer, I love it when sentences roll, gathering speed like an ocean’s white horses. Such flow and momentum are particularly important in my erotic work, where, whether the desire I communicate is thirstily romantic or burly, and bestial, I want nothing more than to feel on the page.