“the record of a woman struggling for clarity in dialogue with herself”

So I started reading Anais Nin’s Henry and June.  Spoiler alert: Anais falls for both Henry and his wife June, though not in that order.

(“Pooooorn,” Emma said, drolly, when I picked it up in the bookstore.  “You would probably like it though.”  Good, I’d said, I read part of it before and liked it, and had been meaning to finish it for a year.)

Henry and June, as you’ll probs know, is made up of uncensored extracts of Anais Nin’s diary from 1931-1932, and it reads like it; the prose, even when it’s abstractly flowery, makes clear enough what happens with Henry, June, her husband Hugo, and a couple other men.  Put succinctly: there’s a lot of sexin’.  That doesn’t faze me.  What gets me are the moments when Anais writes, “I let [So-and-so] read my journal.”  These So-and-Sos include Henry, their friend Fred, and her brother Joaquin.  Those are the bits that catch me up and make me think: sorry, what?  How brave, and strange, to let someone read one’s diary.  Particularly that diary.  How bizarre to do that.  And yet what is blogging, if not the same thing?  Of course our thoughts are censored, edited, while Anais Nin seems to just let everything out there.  Still.

When I started Broad! and decided to open submissions to creative nonfiction, I hoped for pieces of a raw, true, personal writing, the feelings-heavy kind that the Rumpus or Thought Catalog specialize in.  Then I feared that no one would actually submit to Broad! and debated whether I should write something myself in case I needed to fill up some space in the zine, like the editors at McSweeney’s did when they launched.  But you submitted, so many of you!  Thank God.  I don’t want to exploit Broad! as a platform for myself, that’s not the point or fair, and even if I had begun with those intentions –– well, I do not have the guts.  Everything I’ve written that’s even close to Rumpus-like feels too personal to print.  I am not Anais Nin.

Except maybe I can be, a little bit?  The other day, the State asked me why I didn’t continue with my LJ (aside from the fact that I am not 17 years old).  “I’m a much more private person now,” I said.

“‘A more private person,'” he repeated.  “This coming from someone who now has nudes.”*

Anais Nin says in Henry and June that she censors herself as she writes her diary, only records the most exciting events, that her words are lies and embellishments.  She is “afraid of not having been truthful enough” –– to Henry, Hugo, herself.  Is that my problem?  I am not afraid to be honest with myself, but am I afraid to peel back the robot chest panels (so to speak)?  Yes.  And no.

I guess the point is, I have nudes now.

*also known as “photos from that time I did burlesque in July,” and sorry, they are not on the Internet (…yet)

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1 Comment

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One response to ““the record of a woman struggling for clarity in dialogue with herself”

  1. emma

    when tolstoy got married, he *made* his wife read his diary, including parts about him “sexing”/being in love with other women.

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