Anais Nin a Biography

By: Bair, Deirdre

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Anais Nin a Biography by Bair, Deirdre
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Bloomsbury 1996. 8vo softcover 654pp index, b/w illus. very good. From Publishers WeeklynnNin (1903-1977) is largely regarded as a sometimes risibly affected writer of erotic fiction (The House of Incest) and of a voluminous and sexually frank diary. National Book Award winner Bair (Samuel Beckett: A Biography) maintains that Nin is "a major minor writer" ready for critical rehabilitation. That claim is neglected as the author herself focuses on the stormy, lurid erotic history of an undeniably self-absorbed woman. Nin befriended James Merrill, Gore Vidal and Henry Miller, had affairs with Miller and her analyst, Otto Rank, and was a bigamist for half her life. The first biographer with access to Nin's complete diary, Bair uncovers extensive documentation of an incestuous relationship between Nin and her father, as well as suggestions of a sexual liaison with her brother Thorvald. The evidence for the latter exists only in the diaries, which Nin rewrote so heavily that their validity is suspect; one critic calls them "liaries." The basis for Nin's fiction, the diaries were themselves intended for publication. Vidal assailed Nin for her "thundering solipsism"?a charge Bair tacitly endorses without any complementary argument about the aesthetic stature of a woman whose career rested on "the fascination of herself as a subject." nCopyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.n--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. nnn From Library JournalnnIn her Samuel Beckett (LJ 6/15/78) and Simone de Beauvoir (LJ 3/1/90), Bair was overtly judgmental by a forthright middle-class ethic. Still, readers could appreciate that her fastidious grounding of verifiable facts made possible an exact correlation of literature and life. Classifying Nin as a "major minor writer" does not encourage readers to overlook moral lapses in the name of art. Bair clearly finds Nin distasteful, a self-victimizing nymphomaniac who victimized in turn. She was a narcissist, bigamist, and compulsive liar whose obsessive diary-keeping was both her personal art form and her personal undoing. In fiction, her surrealistic representation of eroticism made it seem like fantasy and hence more poetic than pathological. Called a decadent St. Theresa by a publisher's reader, she bore her final illness bravely. Bair has had access to 250,000 pages of Nin's unedited diaries and interviewed a staggering number of "witnesses." The result is compelling reading for literature and biography collections.n--Marilyn Gaddis Rose, Binghamton Univ., N.Y.nCopyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.n--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. .

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