Literary Daybook, June 7

Real and imaginary events of interest to readers.

By the Salon Books Editors

Published June 7, 2002 7:00PM (EDT)

Today in fiction

On June 7, 1664, Robert Merivel marries Celia Clemence (as a convenience to the king).
-- "Restoration" (1989)
by Rose Tremain

From "The Book of Fictional Days"
Know when something that did not really happen
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Today in Literary History
On this day in 1977, Anaïs Nin's "Delta of Venus" was published; also on this day in 1980, Henry Miller died. "Delta of Venus" was Nin's contribution to the dollar-a-page pornography that she, Miller and others contracted to write for an anonymous client in the 1930s. Nin viewed her work as an embarrassment, and a detraction from the feminist-literary image she wished to promote; she said she only agreed to posthumous publication in the hope that the revenue might help support her two husbands. This it did, becoming not only her best-selling book but, according to critics familiar with the genre, a groundbreaking classic for its "sensitive descriptions of women's sexual feelings."

Miller was among the many for whom Nin had such feelings in the 30s. Being involved with three or four men at a time, sometimes on the same day, required sensitive scheduling, at any rate. And several abortions: "I am a mistress," she wrote on the eve of her first in 1934. "I have already too many children ... too much work to do, too many to serve." She was six months pregnant -- she felt certain it was Miller's child -- and the abortion consisted of labor-inducing injections, administered over a week. This gave Nin long enough to assemble most of her current lovers -- Miller, husband Hugo Guiler, psychoanalyst Otto Rank and cousin Eduardo, but not father Joaquin -- to help her through it. "All this love calling me back to life," Nin wrote in her diary. All the men brought gifts, Miller's being the announcement of the imminent publication of "Tropic of Cancer." "Here," wrote Nin, "is a birth which is of greater interest to me."

Rank had to return from London for the occasion, but he would have been able to classify it as business expense, as he was treating not only Nin but her husband and her cousin at this time. Nin seemed to be particularly delighted to couch her psychoanalysts, this being her second. Rank's treatment began with an insistence that she stop her obsessive diary-writing, but by the end he was joining her, happily scribbling away in post-coital euphoria on the left page while Nin scribbled away on the right. Apparently feeling accredited by these triumphs, Nin later had an informal psychiatric practice of her own in New York, as did Henry Miller briefly. Biographer Deirdre Bair ("Anaïs Nin," 1995), the source for much of the above, says that Nin's technique with her clients might today be described as "self-help."

-- Steve King

To find out more about "Today in Literary History," e-mail Steve King.

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