Anaïs Nin started her diaries in 1914 at the age of eleven, and continued them till her death in the 1970s. Paul Herron, who used to have no interest in reading, found a literary icon in Nin. He’s now the head of Sky Blue Press, an indie publisher devoted to Nin, and after editing and releasing her diary Mirages, he’s back this year with the release of Trapeze, her diary from 1947-1955, which he’s co-publishing with Swallow/University of Ohio Press.
How did you first get interested in Anaïs Nin?
I used to have this arrogant attitude that if you’re reading a book, you have nothing else to do. Then one day I saw a film being advertised called Henry and June.
What really interested me [about the movie] was the story that was being told about these adventurous, open-minded, creative, passionate people who take all the rules, and just chuck them and follow their impulses freely. When I saw the credits rolling at the end and I saw these people were real and the book Tropic of Cancer [by Henry Miller] was a real book and Anaïs had written diaries, I said, “We’re stopping at the used bookstore.”
So I bought Diary One and absolutely fell in love with it. She could put into words things that I was feeling but had no way to articulate. I decided I was going to buy everything she ever wrote and read it all.
For people unfamiliar with her work, why do you think she’s an important writer?
I really believe that when you read her work, there is an aspect to it I call the Mirror Effect. You’re looking at the page and seeing yourself in it. This is not exclusive to me—countless others have discovered themselves this way.
You made her writing your career. How did that happen?
I was interested in the people she wrote about and the people that helped her do her work. One of the people was the editor of this publication Anaïs Nin: An International Journal. When he answered the phone, he had this big, booming voice with a German accent. He started asking me, “How did you get into Anaïs?” I realized he was Gunther Stuhlmann, the man who was her longtime literary agent. We started talking to each other and struck up a friendship.
One of the things I did in educating myself on Anaïs was to find her famed house in Louveciennes, France. This experience was so magical that when I got home, I wrote a book about it called The Paris of My Mind.
The following year, Roger Jackson, a Miller publisher, was there looking for the same house and discovered my book. We ended up meeting, and I discovered he was publishing a book of tributes on Henry Miller. I thought, Why don’t we do that for Anaïs?
I got responses from important people. One was Philip Kaufman, the director of Henry and June. I got a letter from Erica Jong, and Allen Ginsberg. There were more than sixty contributors. Long story short, the book was very successful.
What is the process for editing her diaries?
You’ve got to find the story. Mirages starts in 1939. Anaïs had just been driven from France because of the war. She goes from the sensuous, expressive Paris to the cold, puritanical New York City, which was a shock to her. Her love affairs with Henry Miller and her Peruvian lover, Gonzalo Moré, were in deep trouble. She was still with her husband, but their marriage was devoid of any kind of passion. She started to seek out somebody, anybody that could fulfill her.
After countless failed affairs, Anaïs finally met Rupert Pole, seemed to be the guy she was looking for. That, in essence, is the story, and that’s what I concentrated on.
How does your editing process compare with how her diaries were edited for publication before?
The first, original diaries that came out in the 1960s were edited basically by Anaïs herself. She had to edit them in such a way that her sensual life was completely eliminated.
The first [unexpurgated diary] Henry and June, was heavily edited, but for the opposite reason. What was edited out was everything except the erotic. John Ferrone, who was the editor then, wanted to find a story and go with it. He had monumental battles with Rupert Pole, who was the executor of the Nin estate at that time, and Rupert’s philosophy was to keep everything in.
Reeling from his conflicts with Pole, Ferrone refused to edit the next diary, which was called Incest. It was basically Rupert calling the shots on Incest, and Gunther Stuhlmann was editing, and they had big arguments as well. The next two diaries after that, Fire and Nearer the Moon, were edited with that same philosophy. Gunther told me he was so sick and tired of arguing with Rupert that he just gave up.
What can we anticipate reading in Trapeze?
The name implies swinging back and forth. She’s got a husband in New York, she’s got a lover in California, neither knows of the other, and she is maintaining half her time in each place, and she’s making up excuses for why she’s going from one to the other. It is the story of almost superhuman feats to maintain such a lifestyle.
What else of her writings have you published?
The most recent was Auletris: Erotica, which was hiding in plain sight in the archives of UCLA and it was an erotica that exists of two stories that were never before published.
The Portable Anaïs Nin is a collection of all genres of her work. If you don’t know where to start with Anaïs, start there, because there’s something from every part of her work.
The Quotable Anaïs Nin is a list of her most famous quotes and where they come from. My publishing company, Sky Blue Press, also published The Winter of Artifice, the original edition. It was published in Paris but then the war came and her publisher died. Anaïs knew it would never get past the censors in the United States, so she had to gut the book and republish it in New York. I released the original edition as it was published in Paris.
What of her writing would you still like to publish?
I’m working on the diary that comes after Trapeze. The working title of that is called The Diary of Others. There will be a second diary which comes out after that, which will take us right up to the end of her life.