27 November 2011

In Praise of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays, by Anais Nin

I love Anais Nin's erotic fiction and the parts of her diaries that I've read, so when I saw this essay collection at a used bookstore a year ago for $5, I grabbed it. I finally got around to reading it the other day, and I have to say, it was somewhat disappointing. The book hasn't aged too well. It's interesting, perhaps, as a time capsule of feminism in the 1970s, but to a modern day reader, Nin comes off sounding like your typical 70s kooky-lady hippy (I'm sorry, whenever someone talks about women and men discovering their masculine and feminine qualities and how doing so will make the world a better place I kind of die inside). Which is kind of depressing, if you love her other work as much as I do.

It's not that the essays in this collection are bad, actually, the first few are quite lovely. The second one, The New Woman, is a particularly enjoyable discussion of female artists. But even by the end of that, you're starting to feel the sense of a voice from the past. For example, "A woman can be courageous, can be adventurous, she can be all these things. And this woman who is coming up is very inspiring, very wonderful. And I love her." (19) Reading lines like this, I, who flatter myself into thinking that I am in fact an adventurous, courageous woman, kind of feel like I'm being cooed over by an elderly aunt. I love her, and I'm proud of being the person I am, and I'm proud that she's proud of me, but I also can't help but see her as somewhat out of touch. It's definitely a punch to the gut to realize that when Nin was writing, sentences like those were somewhat radical in nature. But they don't really give me much to work with in terms of the world I live in.

The later pieces in the collection, book reviews and excerpts from her diaries (mostly travel writing) are more successful, but not especially amazing. The final piece, My Turkish Grandmother, is really sweet, a wonderful random encounters kind of story that I loved. Overall though, the collection is pretty skip-able.

No comments: