It is always an honor to chat with Paul Herron, Editor of Sky Blue Press and several of Anaïs Nin’s most amazing books, including her greatly anticipated Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, which is now available for pre-order.
Why is the unexpurgated diary of this time in Nin’s life called Trapeze? Why is this a fitting title?
The diary begins in 1947, just after Anaïs Nin has met the young out-of-work actor and aspiring forest ranger Rupert Pole. Although Nin was in a 24-year-long marriage with the banker/engraver Hugo Guiler, she fell hard for Pole and accepted his astounding invitation to drive from New York to Los Angeles alone with him. At the time, Nin had been involved with many, many failed side relationships, vainly seeking the “One” who would answer her love fully, and she felt had met her match in Pole. But she did love her husband, in a fraternal way, and as he offered her love, care, comfort and security, she felt she could not divorce him. So, the first trip to California is the metaphorical first swing on a bicoastal trapeze, a term she herself uses several times in the diary. She lived the trapeze life for the rest of her life, doing her best to keep each man unaware of the other.
I can only imagine how exciting it must be to have already read about Anaïs Nin’s “trapeze” life in the unexpurgated diary! What was it like to be the editor of Trapeze?
There is no question that there are so many treasures in the original diary, and many of them are completely unknown to the public. We hear about them second-hand in biographies and certain studies, but we don’t get to actually read what Nin herself wrote. It is an amazing privilege to edit her work, and I do it for one simple reason: it is valuable to other human beings. Of course, it is a massive undertaking—several thousand pages of mostly handwritten pages, some of which are out of order, all have to be transcribed. Nin’s handwriting is impeccable, but when one tries to decipher Rupert’s handwritten letters, or even Hugo’s sometimes, one needs to develop a system, almost like the one used to interpret hieroglyphics—this swiggle means this letter, that scratch means another. The biggest challenge is to find the story buried in this mountain of diary pages, and to devise a way to let Anaïs Nin tell it stunningly. This means a lot of detective work and, in the end, cutting and rearranging in a way that will thrill the reader. Despite the time and effort, it’s all worth it in the end, because it is a compelling diary, and, I feel, a very important addition to Nin’s overall canon.
I’ve always been amazed and moved by Anaïs Nin’s commitment to boldly creating her own rich world. How did she manage the incredible feat of having relationships with Guiler and Pole at the same time?
I think government intelligence organizations could learn from Nin. What she did, how she did it, who was involved, and how long she kept it up were all superhuman feats—and when you consider the time during which she did this—beginning in the 1940s—it becomes even more breathtaking. First, she had to have excuses for each man when she departed for the other—for Rupert, it was her “job” in New York; for Hugo, it was that California was relaxing and helpful for her writing. She invented lecture tours, co-workers, bosses, conferences, and described them in such detail that she had to keep a “box of lies” to keep her stories straight. She had to invent a reason why she “had no telephone”—because she was staying in an apartment of a friend in New York where there was no phone, or the remoteness of her lodgings in California prevented phone calls. She would call each man from a phone booth whenever she could, and she had friends handle correspondence and unexpected phone calls from each man when necessary.
Could you give us a taste of what some of the highs and lows were like for Anaïs Nin, during the Trapeze years of 1947-1955?
This is pretty simple—the high, and main motivating factor in the trapeze life, was Nin’s passionate lovemaking with Pole. The lows were almost everything else—her marriage with Guiler was devoid of passion and sensuality, and her life with Pole—outside the lovemaking—was bourgeois, mundane, isolated, and completely devoid of intellectual and artistic stimulation. At times, Nin describes each trip as an “escape” from one man or the other. She could only tolerate them for a certain period of time. Now, there were aspects of each man that she adored—she admired Hugo for his determination through analysis to excise his inner demons (his horrible relationship with his father, which seriously flawed him both as a man and as a businessman), and she encouraged both his engraving and his new passion, filmmaking, often collaborating and appearing in the films herself. She loved Rupert’s manliness, his quick decision-making, his youth, his courage in his firefighting, his tenderness and occasional forays into the arts. But the pettiness of Rupert’s life, not to mention his family (he was the stepson of Lloyd Wright, Frank’s firstborn son), drove her away, and so did the fact that she was deprived of medical and psychological care and the other benefits of New York. Hugo’s obsession with money drove Anaïs mad, as did Rupert’s penny-pinching. So she fled each man’s flaws towards the other’s benefits. In that sense, she could almost be considered a ping pong ball.
So she fled each man’s flaws towards the other’s benefits. In that sense, she could almost be considered a ping pong ball.
What were the Trapeze years like for her as a writer and artist?
These years marked the beginning of the worst period in Nin’s career as a writer. After her friendship with Dutton editor Gore Vidal resulted in the firm publishing some of her 1940s novels, things went south. After Dutton dropped Nin because of poor sales (her writing was completely out of place in 1940s America, which craved realism, and she was anything but a realist), she had many problems finding a publisher for her new books. It took her four years to get A Spy in the House of Love published, and even then Guiler had to pay for the printing himself—and the book still flopped. Her agent dropped her, and no one else would sign her on. Critics and even friends assailed her “intensely personal” writing. She began to despair and felt she was an absolute failure. This was a huge drag on her, and keep in mind this was just the back story to a nearly impossible lifestyle. How she was able to handle all of this, both physically and mentally, is incredible. She never gave up on her analysis with Dr. Inge Bogner, and I truly believe it saved her during these chaotic years.
Would you be able to share a quote from Trapeze to inspire us to go and pre-order the book? (I’ve already done so! I’m super-excited!)
When I left Rupert three weeks ago we planned for his vacation in April. We were going to explore a possible job in Puerto Rico. He was going to drive to Miami and I was going to meet him there to fly with him to Puerto Rico.
On the way to New York, I thought: my trapeze is working, I have not fallen off, the two lives are kept separate, and I retain my sanity. But when I arrived, Hugo was not at the airport. What he had believed to be sciatica was actually a slipped disk or ruptured cartilage in his back. He had been in bed two days, and the doctor had ordered two weeks flat on his back. When I arrived, I took over a nurse’s duties, endless rounds of cooking meals, serving them on trays, connecting the electric razor, fetching pipes, buying tobacco, pipe cleaners, newspapers twice a day, running to the post office, typing his letters, buying books and magazines, looking for his comb, etc. Fortunately he is not in pain, just when he walks. Two weeks passed. My compassion was defeated by Hugo’s exaggerated demands. He indulged in constant demands. He refused a nurse. I worked hard with Bogner, delving, delving, above all dissolving guilt, but what a struggle to change my feelings towards Hugo.
The day came for the visit to the doctor. He was not satisfied with Hugo’s condition and advised an operation. We saw another doctor. He said an operation would only be 60% successful, and Hugo was not bad enough to resort to this, so we could try two more weeks of traction in a hospital bed at home. By this time, I called up Rupert: “Please don’t leave yet, I am delayed by work. Meet me next Wednesday at Miami instead of Sunday.” As if he guessed that Wednesday I was going to delay again, he sent me a telegram:
March 31, 1952 Phoenix, Arizona
Arrive New York Friday night will help with your work. Have fun. Let’s do our waiting together. Nowhere you can reach me so can’t say no. Cancel plane ticket get money equivalent. All goes wonderfully. Desert riot of color. Je t’aime toujours plus.
He was on his way! At first I was panicked and trembling. Now comes catastrophe!
–Anaïs Nin in Trapeze
On the way to New York, I thought: my trapeze is working, I have not fallen off, the two lives are kept separate, and I retain my sanity. —Anaïs Nin
I’m honored to be included in this year’s volume of A Cafe in Space, which contains beautiful, deep, and thought-provoking writings, as always, including an excerpt from Anaïs Nin’s Auletris. As the editor, what was it like bringing so much rich work together?
It’s remarkable that after 14 volumes there are still quality writers, scholars, poets, artists, who contribute amazing work. Each year I wonder: will we be able to reach the bar set by the last issue? And every year it seems that we do. Volume 14, which includes your own amazing fan fiction version of Auletris, “L’Étalion,” is really jam-packed with good work. There is an excerpt from Auletris, solid scholarly work on Nin’s life and work, poetry, short fiction, memoir, reviews … and to be able to edit this journal is extremely gratifying. I love my job.
Is there any other news that you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes—not only is Trapeze coming out in May, but there are two other Nin projects in the works: One is a print edition of Britt Arenander’s Anaïs Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which will be released later this year. It is the perfect guidebook for anyone who loves Nin—and Henry Miller—and loves Paris. The other is an audio book version of Auletris: Erotica, also due out this year, which will be ground-breaking work, to say the least. I’m really excited by all of these projects—there is something for everyone in them.
Many thanks to the amazing Paul Herron! Want more ? Well, you can pre-order Trapeze from Amazon, order A Cafe in Space (which includes Lana’s fan-fiction “L’Étalion”), or check out Paul Herron’s wonderful Anaïs Nin Podcast.