Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Favourite Reads *Henry and June*

I got into reading the expurgated (abridged) journals of Anais Nin when I was in my teens and she was my favourite author for years. But, only after I had read a good 5 or 6 of her journals did I realize that there is another collection of her journals that are Unexpurgated. And these have the sexy, juicy bits in them! Funny enough, while I was reading I felt like she was censoring herself when it came to the details of her affairs. I thought it might be her uninterest in the more physical aspects of a romance (she is a very poetic, trilling writer). But, when I picked up Henry and June I realized that I had no idea.

Anais Nin is this petite, foxy French lady who wrote her journals throughout her life, but most intensely in the 30's when she was the paramour of Henry Miller. She was married to a banker and had a very vivid inner life. And Henry and June has all of the details of her affair both with Henry and his wife, June. Not to say that Anais' journals are not literary, because they are. She has this swooping purple way of documenting her world, and she is pretty self-absorbed but not without curiosity; she wants to know why she thinks and feels as she does.

As I'm writing this I'm thinking "Hey, just cuz I read these books when I was in my teens doesn't mean it's appropriate". What I think is appropriate is the sense of Anais as her own woman entirely at a time when she was expected to just sit and look pretty for her husband. She had a spectacular inner life and wanted to feel it fully, despite what others thought of her. She was concerned with being absolutely true to herself and came to see the sacrifices in that, but also the aliveness of it. She chose exactly how she wanted to live her life.

That's not to say that Anais wasn't a messed up lady, because she was. She hurt a lot of people and had a lot of unhealthy relationships, especially with her father. But the unexpurgated journals that she left behind are startling in their sincerity and truthful in her quest for self-realization. And, of course, if this doesn't hold your interest there are still the juicy bits.

Some excerpts *with apologies*:

My cousin Eduardo came to Louveciennes yesterday. We talked for six hours. He reached the conclusion I had come to also: that I need an older mind, a father, a man stronger than me, a lover who will lead me in love, because all the rest is too much a self-created thing. The impetus to grow and live intensely is so powerful in me I cannot resist it. I will work, I will love my husband, but I will fulfill myself.

At the same time I concede to myself that he knows the technique of kissing better than anyone I've met. His gestures never miss their aim, no kiss ever goes astray. His hands are deft. My curiosity for sensuality is stirred. I have always been tempted by unknown pleasures. He has, like me, a sense of smell. I let him inhale me, then I slip away. Finally I lie still on the couch, but when his desire grows, I try to escape. Too late.

Flipping through the book I'm finding little underlinings that I left years ago, not ALL the good bits *tsk*. I also find that almost every paragraph is quotable. This is a great book and followed by further unexpurgated journals. One of the lines I underlined at the time is this:

When he puts his arms around me, I think he is amusing himself with an overintense and ridiculous little woman.

All of my underlinings are in red pen and it looks like I read the book in one or two sittings because the lines and pen colour never vary. I've never seen the movie, but I originally read the movie cover version (bottom). The top cover is the newely released edition. It looks beautiful, but the girl is no Anais.

For the older reader of course.

My Favourite Books is a weekly meme hosted by At Home With Books.


Tales of Whimsy said...

Wow. I've never heard of this. Thanks for the review.

Cecelia said...

The book sounds fascinating. I liked how you wove the story of your own readings into the review. That made it more personal and effective. I'll keep Henry and June in mind.

Mandy said...

Juju: Thanks, lady ;)

Celia: I'm actually re-reading it because of my post. It's a great little book. Very provocative. Thanks also for the feedback.

Alyce said...

I have heard of the journals before, and about how racy they are, but I haven't had a chance to read them. I also haven't had the chance to read any excerpt prior to your post, so it was nice to get an idea of what the writing is like.

Mandy said...

Alyce: They're racy but they're compelling as well. Anais was actually very self-aware and concerned mostly with knowing what she was feeling and going with it. She's a neat lady.


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