I bought this book in Maarssen, The Netherlands, when my journey first began. Though I had been to Maarssen many times before the narrow bookshop was a revelation to me. The narrow shelves that reached the ceiling were stuffed with bindings in English, my eyes ran like a drug fiend, searching for the names of brilliance. I gasped when I found it; I gasped when I found Plexus. I hurried through the rain to warmth and crisped yellow pages.
In Amsterdam, two days before, I found journals I and III of Anaïs Nin. So began an obsession revived in the opening pages of Erotica. Anaïs Nin sparks mystery and an unquenchable curiosity as a writer and as a woman. Actually, I stopped reading Anaïs Nin cold-turkey, when in the rains of Oakland I read Diedre Blair’s biography. The unwinding of fact was the water bucket on the sparks of fiction and halfway through Incest and Fire in the waiting, I quit it. Does Anaïs Nin’s life make better sense in the veil-waving, tale-weaving realms of fiction? Her life has something fact can’t handle.
Delta of Venus was written in New York City after Anaïs fled Paris and the war. The erotica was written for a dollar a page paid by an anonymous “collector.” Henry Miller first tried his hand at it (Opus Pistorum) then passed the scheme onto Anaïs. The works were eventually published, much later, as Delta of Venus and another similiar, Little Birds; pages of sex through the female’s perspective and not any female but the woman constantly assessing her own sexual limits.
I had a feeling that Pandora’s box contained the mysteries of woman’s sensuality, so different from man’s and for which man’s language was inadequate. The language of sex had yet to be invented.
Pandora’s box was Anaïs’ journals, picked apart published as unexpurgated Henry and June, Incest and Fire. The unexpurgated journals rocked me with their sensual poetics, compressed and saturated sex. Anaïs Nin’s fiction has always seemed weak and airy in comparison. In Delta of Venus I hear the journal’s same strong feminine voice, always acutely aware. Even at the end, Henry Miller appeared as Hans. “Hans’s penis never softens, so he takes his time, with a sureness about it. He installs himself inside of the present moment, to enjoy calmly, completely to the last drop.”
The prose of Anaïs Nin was made for sex, as her body at times in the unexpurgated journals, drips with it. There’s that one scene of a broken sexual taboo, when she walks out of her father’s bedroom, after sleeping with him, her delta dripping sperm so she walked with a rag between her legs to stifle the flow. Anaïs can surely shock. Some stories in the Delta of Venus were slightly strange, but not uncomfortably.
Most stories were full of sensuality that rose up from my core depth within me in a dull blaze. I especially liked Elena’s. It was longer than most and I’m a sucker for expansion of character. Elena, in the beginning, was a woman of latent sexual curiosity who wondered dreamily about men on a railway car while reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover. At the end Elena was a woman of unrestrained sexual curiosity, a woman on the plateau of her own pleasure.
…the presence of Leila’s hand in the taxi had plunged Elena into a state that was unlike anything Pierre had ever aroused in her. Instead of reaching right to the center of her body, Leila’s voice and touch had enveloped her in a voluptuous mantle of new sensations, something in suspense that did not seek fulfillment but prolongation.
The shorter story, Artists and Models, I also found especially alluring. Then there is the woman Bijou, a street walker. She fell into the clutches of the Basque, who never failed to bring her up to the peak of sexual climax but failed to take her over it, he left her dangling with her want unfulfilled. In fact, most of the women in Delta of Venus were endowed before or during the length of a story, with the realization of their bursting sexualities, which they never left dangling. These women were full of sexual action, usually accompanied by a fonder emotion, such as love.
To think of female sexuality is to imagine worlds of sexual possibility beyond the bounds of the usual dichotomy, as seen in what we are made to believe. Female sexuality defies the media’s caricatures meant to abhor. Are we scared? Rare is the woman who can claim her own sexuality; how to know what is your own anyway? It takes consciousness, I think. Some getting inside and erasing all the damages.
Anaïs Nin is far from being a perfect sexual role model. Her lies were so intricate at times that the web she wove was impossible to get out of. I don’t like that. BUT (and that’s a big but) she created a language for female sexuality, a language of poetic fluidity, a language around love and the small sensual prolongations that make women’s experience of sex so different from men’s. This intimate knowing of Anaïs Nin goes deep and touches in me all that makes up my own sexuality and it does so truly, more completely then any man’s version, any media’s version, any new-age feminists, anti-porn, pro-porn version, because it is my own and it is poetic and it is sensual.
We loose so much by being afraid of what we store so deep. Pandora’s box can be opened further. If Anaïs Nin only knew a few things—but she knew more—they were journal writing and sex. Delta of Venus is sex, erotic sex, woman’s sex, love sex, sex sex, Anaïs Nin sex. Come and get your sex if its hot and subtle and enjoys a little poetry and European charms.
When she closed her eyes she felt he had many hands, which touched her everywhere, and many mouths, which passed so swiftly over her, and with a wolflike sharpness, his teeth sank into her fleshiest parts. Naked now, he lay his full length over her. She enjoyed his weight on her, enjoyed being crushed under his body. She wanted him soldered to her, from mouth to feet. Shivers passed through her body.
Commentary for Delta of Venus
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