If I was to read Anais Nin, where would I want to start?

I read some excerpts from the diaries of Anais Nin in my AP English class in high school, from the Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, and I found it very interesting and thought her prose very nice and thought that her opnions on feminity, while not having much in common with my own, bore further investigation.

I have also been given to understand that the reason why our high school English class read exerpts from the Norton Anthology instead of the real thing was that there are sexy parts.

My interest is piqued.

So last time I was in the stacks, I wandered over to the N shelf (okay, that’s a bit of a fib; its organized by Library of Congress numbers . . .but you get my drift) with the intention of selecting a volume or two of Ms. Nin’s work to peruse.

I was a bit discombobulated. There were many copies of segments of her diaries, labeled by ranges of years. I had no idea which years I ought to read, so I gave those a pass. There were a few books of exerpts (which, despite their probable readability, I shied away from because, for one I have a natural aversion to abridgments, and, you know, I don’t want to miss the sexy bits.) There was some of her fiction, including a volume subtitled, disconcertingly, “Erotica.” I’m interested in the naughty bits, but I don’t necessarily want to advertise that to everyone who happens to wander passed me during Sustained Silent Reading.

Anyway, I’m sure some of you wise Dopers will be able to advise me were I might want to start. Is her fiction as good as her diaries? Should I just get a copy of Henry and June?

IIRC, there is (or was) a book called The Anais Nin Reader, that I gave to a friend who was a big Anais Nin fan. If you can find a copy, it might be a good starting point. Of course, I gave it 25 years ago, so it might be out of print now.

I think no matter what you read, anyone who knows anything about Nin is going to assume “sexy bits.”

Aside from the diaries, and if you like the naughty parts, try Delta of Venus.

I would suggest “3 little birds” and “a spy in the house of love”. Yes her fiction is as good as the diary. You may also want to check out Henry miller, Sylvia Plath and D H lawerence if you like her. Dont rent henry and June.

Try reading her diaries to get an impression of how batshit crazy she was. From an incestuous relationship with her father, to an aborted child, to ceaselessly contradictory opinions on sex roles, her diaries will make you happy you’re living a “normal life.”

Her was acclaimed, but now it’s highly dated, and some parts are rather disturbing (man molesting children, boy having sex with corpse of drowned woman, man’s wild experience with hermaphrodite, racist cariactures, the list goes on).


Whoops, I intended to write “her erotica was acclaimed…”


I’m with UnuMondo. I read “Fire” (one of her diaries) a few years ago and wasn’t that impressed. It was uneven, for one, and within the first few chapters she went from one dude to another without even a segue (IIRC). I recall one dirty bit about a lesbian experience, but I specifically remember her remarking on the “fishy taste” she didn’t like. Not too arousing, if you know what I mean.

There are some lovely lyrical descriptions in Fire, but not enough to make me peruse the rest of her writings.

Thanks for the suggestions, guys.

I’m sure there have been complete biographies written about Nin, but if you’re interested in a rather personal take on her and her work, read Gore Vidal’s Palimpsest: A Memoir and some of Vidal’s essays. He skewers her for being, shall we say, economical with the truth in her tales about herself. I’m not sure how reliable Vidal’s take on her is, but it’s an interesting read.