The Curing of a Bibliomaniac Part 14: Under a Glass Bell (Anais Nin, 1948)

Books left: 12. Weeks left: 19 (lucky I’m dreadful at maths, otherwise I might be intimidated).

I was not moving any more with my feet. The cave was no longer an endless route opening before me. It was a wooden, fur-lined crib, swinging. When I ceased stepping firmly, counting my steps, when I ceased feeling the walls around me with fingers twisted like roots, seeking nourishment, the labyrinthian walk became enlarged, the silence became airy, the fur disintegrated, and I walked into a white city. 

Stack of Anais Nin titles.

Surely, is fine to have two editions of Delta of Venus.

I confess to a largely irrational hatred of short stories, so it is testament to the worthiness of this project that I am digging this out this book and asking myself why I have carried it about for nigh on 10 years without reading it. As it’s more than 60 years old itself, I can’t really say, “but it’s so hot right now.”

It’s the lure of the Nin, I suppose; I have read her novel A Spy in the House of Love, her erotic fiction in Delta of Venus (which I have a gorgeous edition of, illustrated by Judy Chicago, as well as a paperback – surely, not overkill) as well as her chronicle Henry and June, about Nin’s dangerous liaisons with Henry Miller and his wife June Mansfield.

But no matter what the author’s credentials I always feel as though short stories end, usually abruptly, just when you are becoming interested and moreover, in ways that inevitably feel like sly jokes. I freely admit that the short story is deservedly regarded as an art form and my preference is purely personal, and potentially showing up a control freak, but there it is – I like a story with meat on its bones with a beginning and an end that occurs in a designated place – i.e., the end of the volume. Even short stories related through character, location or theme, such as those featuring in Tim Winton’s The Turning, are not really my cup of tea.

When you read a decent God-fearing novel, it quite properly ends when the pages do – and so when I read this slim volume, I find myself compulsively checking how many pages each story has before I start it, so I’m not caught by surprise. It turns out many of these tales are just a handful of pages.

But in the interests of the project I push on. I find vignettes with the mad beauty and frightfulness of dreams, recorded in a prose so phantasmagorical it is more like poetry – and I read it like poetry, not bothering to slow or stop at things I don’t understand, forgetting everything the moment I have read it, lulled by the illusory babble.

This is not erotic fiction, but it is no less sensuous than Nin’s erotic works.

Keep or cast off? I’ll let this one go. It’s not something I will press upon others – anyone who wants to know about Anais Nin already does, I figure – but that doesn’t mean I’ll let go of either copy of Delta of Venus. You can’t make me. Oh, there’s Smaug again.

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