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Anaïs Nin: A Biography

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  490 ratings  ·  27 reviews
The National Book Award winner presents a stunning new life of one of this century's most elusive and alluring women writers. Best known for her sexual peccadillos, and especially her affair with Henry Miller, Nin emerges in this work as a deeply complex and gifted writer whose major themes reflected the public life of our age.
Hardcover, 654 pages
Published March 8th 1995 by Putnam Publishing Group (first published 1995)
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It's 2003. I'm out of work, driving around the mountains of Asheville, NC, listening to NPR. An interview with Deidre Bair plays as she discusses a Jung biography (which is on the list to read for sure), and she mentions her research process (as well as some pretty shocking discoveries) for an older biography about Anais Nin. I literally stop what I am doing and drive to the library. To follow came many days of reading my troubles away. My should-have-been-looking-for-a-job paled in comparison t ...more
Chloe Coventry
I find Bair's take on Anais Nin's life to be oddly judgmental. A curious scolding condescension colors this biography. Yes, Nin may have been a narcissist, but Bair portrays her as a spoiled brat, emotionally immature, sexually manipulative, and without ethics. Even worse, Bair writes about Nin's work without any sympathy or sense of Nin's quite unique contribution to literary modernism. More intellectual curiosity might be directed towards Nin's relentless and fantastical quest to understand an ...more
Jennifer  Sciolino-Moore
I stumbled upon Anaïs Nin in college while killing time at a Borders before a date. Her diaries were sitting in the "literature" section and I couldn't quite understand why. I pulled Volume I off the shelf, and thinking to myself: "Why would I want to read the diaries of someone??", I opted instead, for Ladders To Fire. I was instantly smitten. In the next week, I'd inhaled House of Incest, A Spy In The House Of Love and Little Birds. It was Anaïs, through Henry and June that introduced me to He ...more
It was frightening to see so much of myself in young Nin, mostly the undesirable parts.

"The idea of relativity makes many people fearful- the idea that you are one person with me today and another person with someon else later." Anaïs Nin said this in an 1971 interview. xv

Anaïs said a lifetime of diary writing had been, from the first moment she wrote about herself, a concession "that life would be more bearable if I looked at it as an adventure and a tale. I was telling myself the story of a l
Beverly Diehl
Anais Nin is one of my favorite authors, but after 500 pages, even I was a little sick of her. I got the impression that so was the author, at times - which is okay, because Anais herself was not always a nice or kind person. She was often self-centered, jealous, petty, and devious.

Anais was also incredibly talented, when she wasn't getting in her own way, and generous with her lovers (even if it was her husband's money she was sharing) and her work.

A very complicated woman, who did track her li
The thing I like about Anais Nin above all else is that she formed powerful connections to people and used them as catalysts. People, for Nin, seemed to be transformative elements through which she floated and morphed, giving her what she liked the most: a reason to write about herself. When I read this book, my first reaction was distaste. Having handed over most of The Tropic of Cancer to Henry Miller and asking for none of the glory, I saw her as a weak-minded, needy woman who had no courage. ...more
Noura Khalil
We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.
This is an excellent biography. I would read any by this author. And what a complicated woman Nin was...full of art, artifice & deception. Did you know she had 2 husbands, one on each coast? One knew about the other, but the other did not...fascinating. I once wrote a long response to this book, which also covered my relat. to Nin (I devoured her as a high schooler); unfortunately it was handwritten in a favorite notebook which I lost on a Mexico City subway...
Deirdre Bair is a genius. I read this in the stairwells of my high school when I was 14 during lunch. I fell very much in love w/ the graceful complications of this woman. The index card box she had to keep track of her complicated lies was so fascinating. She's so buckled-up & yet she oozes these sensuous stories out onto the page. Deirdre Bair, if anyone should be trusted w/ the sacred documents amounting to someone's entire existence, it is you.
Bair honestly and sympathetically sorts through what Nin writes in her journals and reconciles it with Nin's life. Although Nin's journals have been referred to as the "Liaries" since she revised them often and withheld information to protect her husband from her bigamy, Bair presents a vulnerable, understandable woman who is trying to find a culture to which she belongs. Intriguing and dark, this book is worth reading.
Liked the writing, very thorough...but Nin was like a beautiful train wreck, you can't believe what you're reading and want to look away so badly but just can't seem to do it.
Incredibly well written biography of an incredibly messed up, narcissistic, untruthful, nymphomaniacal writer :) No, don't get me wrong, I fell in love with Nin by reading this biography. She was so crazy that you'd either have to love her or hate her. I could never hate anyone who was so alive and so wildly creative, even if she chanelled this creativity more into her superbly complex life and therefore less into her art. Still, even though she was not the greatest writer, she will always be re ...more
Dieuwertje Heuvelings
terrible subjective biography
Sara Kay
A frank, sometimes brutal biography of Anais Nin. Dierdre Bair is not sympathetic in any way, but shows you everything, warts and all...not hesitating to make clear her approval or disapproval of certain events and decisions in Anais's life. Still, this is a captivating read, and should be the first choice outside of Anais's own (unexpurgated) diaries and books for you to seek out if you want to know more about her. Highly recommended.
So here's the thing: Do I rate this book according to how well it was written, or how absolutely disgusted I was to learn about the even more sordid details of Nin's life & character? I'll go with the latter. Reading this book, for me, was like discovering your favorite superhero can't fly. I was so upset I couldn't even finish it.
Stacy Rose
Anais Nin led a strange life! Stranger than I had imagined when watching the movie, Henry & June, so many years ago. Her fiction was too exasperating for me to read. I always got the feeling she had just downed some absinthe and could not figure out what she was trying to say. The biography was more intersting.
Liz Muir
Not really an academic critical analysis of Nin's life and work nor a biography written in a way to engage the lay reader; this book somehow fell between two genres. However the life of Nin, bizarre, deceitful and self-absorbed is interesting enough and annoying enough to want to get to the end.
The biography is well written. The author did a great job. That being said...
I found Nin very narcissistic and because of it a "one" dimensional diminishing being. I could not help but feel pity for the Femme Fatale.
Reading about Anaïs Nin certainly is a lot more enjoyable than reading the stuff Anaïs Nin wrote. What an insane and fascinating woman she was.
Initially read this when I was 11. Along with another that..THE PEARL! Such saucy talk for the perverted authors of the 1600's
It reads rather like a research paper, but it's still really interesting.
Anais Nin is batshit crazy, and this book is a dream.
I got bored, and I think the author did, too.
Michelle Fields
Very revealing and insightful.
i found all the moralizing a bit boring
excellent..I read this in one night!
A fascinating woman.
Mwalsh marked it as to-read
May 25, 2015
Katharine marked it as to-read
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Deirdre Bair won the National Book Award for Samuel Beckett: A Biography. Her biographies of Simone de Beauvoir and Carl Jung were finalists for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Bairs biographies of Anais Nin and Simone de Beauvoir were chosen by The New York Times as "Best Books of the Year," and her biography of Jung won the Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psy ...more
More about Deirdre Bair...
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