A discussion about what to do with all of your accumulated journals a week ago immediately brought to mind this photo of Anais Nin, her life’s work stacked safely in a bank vault. I was a huge fan of Anais all through out my 20s and some of my 30s, I am sure her writing and the what she conveyed as an expectation level of how an artist should live their lives influenced me heavily. I recall the summer I found a paperback diary of hers in a used bookstore in the University District here in Seattle, and ate it up.
I don’t recall if I actually read all of them but it was to a point where people would give me rare editions of her books as gifts. However, a fated day at the Strand bookstore in New York, probably eight years ago brought me Deirdre Bair’s huge examination of Anais’ life. Page after page unfolded the lies upon lies that were hidden from Anais’s published work. Perhaps that was not Bair’s intent, but I felt angry and betrayed. Perhaps I always thought it was feasible that I too would live in a houseboat, live a bi-coastal life and continue the life of a “boheme” forever. When I found out her carefree lifestyle was the product of an unmentioned banker husband and all kinds of other assorted pieces of unsavory evidence I felt betrayed. A book that was supposed to be about the honesty of a person’s life was really fiction. I was pissed. I sold or got rid of all of my Anais library, holding onto only the Bair book.
This weekend I was at Elliot Bay Books an came across one of her diaries in their used book section. I picked it up and looked at the cover, thinking maybe they would be of interest to reread from a new perspective. I couldn’t do it though. Too many other books to place my time into now. However, the thought of holding the act of keeping a journal up as a serious activity still resonates with me and for that I am still thankful.