on 2 December 2009
Continuing the journey of intense emotions, conflicts, self-discovery, and fearless questioning scorched onto the pages of "Henry and June", "Incest" smoulders with the passion Nin so eloquently expresses. Chronicling the years from 1932 to 1934, and detailing her relationships with Henry Miller, Hugh Guiler, Antonin Artaud, with her analysts Rene Allendy and Otto Rank, and - most electrifying - the reunion with her father, this volume sizzles with emotional tension. June Miller - the woman, the caricature, the mysterious enigma - still imposes a vivid presence in this drama of turbulent love - a presence in no way diminished by actual proximity to the main events. But, although Nin is exceedingly generous in her portraits of these characters, she towers above them all - intellectually, artistically, emotionally, and by the sheer expansive spectrum of her mind, and because of her intensely intimate and brave connection to experiences. The truly exceptional always defy narrow definitions, and will always struggle - even with extreme compromise - to find anyone who might be a suitable and inspiring match: Dali and Dylan suffered at the hands of those who previously praised them as geniuses, purely because they would not be confined by the conservative conformity that the lesser beings of radical, alternative, and superficially bohemian counter-culture movements generally default to; and - despite Nin being prepared to indulge her lovers, and receive from several that which she could not get from just one - even collectively, ultimately they all disappoint. Hell has no fury like an inadequate scorned, and sometimes Nin suffers from the vicious scorpion stings and malefic manipulation of her lovers, often pre-emptively: Rank attempts to brainwash her with his self-proclaimed intellectual superiority, Allendy - consumed with jealousy and sexual inadequacy - tries to impose his narrow and defective wisdom, and the impotent Artaud has transparent motive for accusing Nin of terrible cruelty. Miller is much more empathetic, at least in dialogue and action, but, he too, not without distinct flaws. But the journal is not about the tragedy of love, nor the romanticization of love, and Nin bravely, and relentlessly, commits to life and to love with honesty, and anyone who does so will feel the extremes of emotion, and experience the eviscerating contradictions and conflicts - and she gives voice to this in compelling and beautiful manner. The boundaries are pushed beyond the sensibilities of some - the mutual seduction that takes place between Nin and her father, or, indeed, simply being intensely in love with more than one person - but in all cases she is simply daring to question what all but the most unimaginative, self-deluded, and easily satisfied wonder about, or act on; the majestic triumph is how powerfully, and how sublimely she uses words with the same intense love she experiences and invokes it in others, and with genuine mastery of her art - something that Miller never quite managed. No coincidence that Miller inspired the similarly hit-and-miss Beat crowd, more content to pose in predictable and contrived caricature than create, and that Nin continues to speak strongly to those with greater artistic integrity. No coincidence that her detractors always seem framed in jealousy and fear, and subject to a zealousness which is always indicative of lack of faith in their own way of living, and symptomatic of dissatisfaction with the same.
Nin's is an exceptional mind, and a beautiful mind - it is always a rare treat to be granted access to such. If one is excited to leave the comfort zone of the mundane, this is an exquisitely provocative book - not due to subject matter, but because of the refreshing nature of a mind confident enough to stand naked without servitude to established `wisdom' and tradition, and a psyche able to withstand asking any question, no matter the consequence; it is the product of a mind emancipated from many of the restrictions the prosaic cling so fiercely to; and it is a tremendously liberating read. More than this, it is a book of great beauty.