Curse You, Anais Nin. You're Ruining My Reading Streak



I’m on a reading streak right now, so it’s actually miraculous that I’m even able to put my book down to write this. When I’m on a reading streak, I read night and day, while I eat, while I watch TV, while I dry my hair. I only put the book down to sleep, drive and pick out another book.

Some of my other streaks are my Kukuro puzzle streak, knitting streak, CNN political news streak, and a mean crossword puzzle streak. Reading streaks are my favorite because I tend to over-identify with the characters, setting and time period, and when I finally look up from my book I’m slightly surprised that I’m me, living in my house in 2012. None of my day-to-day problems seem worth worrying about, when compared to the more dramatic lives of the people in my books, so I don’t get a lot accomplished when I’m on a reading streak. When I finally tear myself away from the book, it seems so pointless to do a load of whites or pick up the dry cleaning.

For this streak, I decided to read all the books that I have in my house that I’ve been wanting to read but haven’t taken the time. I have a motley crew of books, most that I bought at used book sales. Among the books I tore through in the past eight weeks: a D.M. Thomas novel, Henry & June, a Philip Roth book, a fictionalized story of Frank Lloyd Wright’s mistress, an account of the birth of the Kinsey Institute, a book about the horse breeding industry, and Anna Karenina.

Conclusion: Everyone is having more sex than me. Even the horses, and those tight-asses in late-19th-century Russia. And before you judge me and my sex life, they’re having more sex than you, too. 

Honestly, I kept picking up books thinking, “Surely these people can’t be obsessed with sex” and then after about 15 pages I’d realize, yes, architect nerds, homeless people and Hoosiers can so be obsessed with sex.

Henry & June was the worst. It was so extreme, I was having a hard time identifying with anybody or anything in the book, least of all the author. 

Sexual awakening my ass. Anaïs Nin couldn’t finish a snack or a sentence without tearing off her clothes and doing it with whoever was in the room with her. (I don't know about you, but where I'm from, we call that "being a little bit whorish.") Then she’d hurry up and jot down all the details in her journal, throwing in a couple feminist adjectives and pretending that Henry Miller wasn’t the foulest, most self-absorbed, misogynistic pig of his time.

I was exhausted just reading about her exploits in the bedroom ( . . . and living room . . . and kitchen . . . and front porch . . .) The book covered only a year of her journal and she was having three or four affairs - one with her cousin, another with her therapist - all while doing some pretty kinky stuff with her own husband and starting the flirting phase with at least two more people.

“Okay,” I said to Anaïs Nin after 15 pages, “I know you’re in Paris and you’re wealthy and you have servants, and I realize you’ve got the whole sexual awakening thing nailed down pretty good, but don’t you have some mending to do or some dishes to wash? When was the last time your car was serviced?” I found myself talking to her like she was my errant niece. “Can’t you see some value in going to bed early, curling up with one of your damn journals, and just taking a break from all the sex and deep thoughts?”

Several times I thought Anaïs was going to do something normal, something I could identify with. Once, she started to say something about cooking dinner. Hey, I cook dinner, I thought.

The next day I run about the house cooking. Suddenly I love cooking, for Henry. I cook richly, with infinite care. I enjoy seeing him eat, eating with him. We sit in the garden, in our pajamas, drunk on the air, the caresses of the swaying trees, the songs of birds, attentive dogs licking our hands. Henry’s desire is always coursing. I am ploughed, open.”

This hardly ever happens to me when I run about the house cooking. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m plopping down a tuna casserole and yelling DINNER!

And the dog - she has a dog! It shows up only two or three times. Apparently she never has to walk or feed the dog or pour drops in his ears or treat him for worms or pick up dog poop from the back yard - garden - sorry, the back garden.

One night, Henry had gas and even that was ever so wonderful.

“One night when I arrived, Henry had a stomach ache. I had to take care of him as I do of Hugo - hot towels, massage. He was lying on the bed, showing a beautiful white stomach. He slept a while and awoke cured. We read together. We had an amazing fusion. I slept in his arms In the morning he awoke me with caresses, mumbling something about my expression.”

I can never let my husband read this book. Hot towels and a massage are not in the stomachaches of his future.

Let’s see . . . what else . . . Oh! They do yard work, just like my husband and me.

“I am remembering this while Hugo is gardening. And to be with him now seems as if I were living in the state of being I was in at twenty. Is it his fault, this youthfulness of our life together? My God, can I ask about Hugo what Henry asks about June? He has filled her. Have I filled Hugo?”

And why, for cripe’s sake, is he trimming that bougainvillea so close to the shed? Isn’t anyone going to say anything about that?

There was some mention of Anaïs doing some sewing and hanging curtains.

“We had breakfast together at five in the afternoon. And then I sewed the gray curtains and Henry hammered on the curtain rods. Later Henry made a hearty dinner; we drank Anjou, and were very gay.”

Yeah. Just like at my house when my husband helps me hang window treatments. Right.

I understand the sequel to Henry & June, aptly titled Incest, goes into her later affairs with more cousins, more therapists, her father, and various men and women who happen to walk into her view. I’m saving that one for my next reading streak, when I read books that fall under the heading, “Puh-leez.”

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