Notes made while reading Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin:
• I guess it’s only natural that after I’ve read ten [mostly] kitschy erotic romance novellas in quick yet listless succession, I’d go for the tried-and-tested kind. Still. This is just my first encounter with Nin—she scares me. Or, well, I’m scared that she’ll disappoint me. I don’t want my reaction to her ending up similar to Kate Chopin or Charlotte Perkins Gilman who were awesome literary movers and shakers in their own right, but ultimately left me dry with their barely disguised proto-feminist propaganda stifling the art in their works. I’ve found that I am not averse to politics. But, please, don’t stuff it down my throat. However. This is my first encounter with Nin, but I am very much certain it won’t be my last.
• The preface to the short stories—hell, I didn’t even know these were short stories!—details how the erotica-writing all began for her: Money. Some Mysterious Person commissioned them for a dollar of a page of erotica—and if anyone wants me to do that, I will most likely not say no. Aherm. Soon enough, Nin and her merry band are admonished* by SMP to “leave out the poetry and descriptions of anything but sex. Concentrate on sex.” And what most tickles me: “Less poetry, be specific.”
*Nin wrote the collector (SMP) a really awesome letter in response, which daintily and artfully states, “Go to hell, dude.” If anything, that letter can serve as an erotica writer’s manifesto on any and all allegations that it’s nothing but porn. Hear, hear!
• Erotica, at that point, had also been part of the man’s realm. Of course. Nin: “I had a feeling that Pandora’s box contained the mysteries of women’s sensuality, so different from man’s and for which man’s language was inadequate. The language of sex had yet to be invented. The language of the senses was yet to be explored.” Challenge accepted, said Nin—I got quite giddy when she verbalized her decision to publish erotica “because it shows the beginning efforts of a woman in a world that had been the domain of men.” [Ah, subversion through art itself. See? You don’t have to choke me with it!]
• That wearying, age-old debate [and all its follow-up questions], the resolution to which must, in my opinion, be borne out of common sense, as well as openness to visceral reactions: erotica vs. pornography? is it a visceral judgment? must erotica seduce? doesn’t pornography? does the difference lies in just style and language and delivery? content? or is judgment based on what you feel after reading? And while we’re here, a reader in one of the stories who reads a cache of erotica for the first time:
There are things one reads that make you aware that you have lived nothing, felt nothing, experienced nothing up to that time.
• Nin’s stories so far are like fables and parables and fairytales with no conceivable happy endings. Forced seduction to rape [yes, sigh, rape]. Ambush sex. Oh, character, don’t fail me now—the prose is so beautiful, the language capturing the quietest moods of even the most tumultuous sexual reactions. I wonder about the collector (that SMP)—how could this titillate hardened purveyors of pornography? How can I applaud Nin’s description, thus, “her sex was like a giant hothouse flower,” and nod thoughtfully afterwards? Perhaps it’s the time? That this was profane during the 1940s and far from the poetry I consider it now?
• Here, even the seducers and champions of the triumph of the erotic don’t “triumph” in the end. Not necessarily. And yes, take that innuendo for what it’s worth. Also know that penises get chopped off in this book.
• So many voyeurs, so many exhibitionists! So many at a loss as to what to do with their desires, “perverted” or otherwise. Cripes, I love this book. [TMIredacted—] Do not read this in a public place. Holy pandas, I feel—no other word for it—I feel dissolved. Restless? Puddle-y? Dissolved. That liminal place.
I wanted to be possessed and know blinding joys.
• It must be said: Chick’s got a penguin on her butt cheek.
PSA: Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin was a long-in-coming yet very rewarding impulse buy from NBS-Katipunan.