I have always been fascinated by authors who kept journals, and even mores by authors whose fame rested on those journals. I’m sure my own journals were the main reason for this.
I read the works and the biographies of many journal writers, including Sylvia Plath, Albert Camus, Anne Sexton, and Franz Kafka. But no one captured my sense of curiosity like Anaïs Nin.
I read her journals during a very happy, healthy time in my life, and while she was certainly far from emotionally healthy, she was always emotionally interesting. Her Bohemian lifestyle and her relationships with men like Otto Rank and Henry Miller made her existence, and her words, charged with complexity. In my thoughts, I wondered what it would be like to be in Paris in the 1930s with these people, whose lives were filled with passion for everything; writing, socializing, sex, deep discussion, and so on. I imagined myself on a street corner or at a café arguing over espresso with authors and painters and dancers and musicians.
I never read anything by Henry Miller I didn’t like. The same is true for Albert Camus, who I consider my favorite author of all time. Franz Kafka, on the other hand, sometimes takes things too far, and his writing can drag me down with it.
Of course, I also thought it would be wicked cool to have been part of Jack Kerouac’s passel of writers and thinkers, always outside the box, always a little misunderstood, but always creative.
But back to Anaïs. I don’t know exactly why I connected with her journals so well, except to say that they spoke to me. She was a mess, and I found my own writing to be a bit too orderly, a bit too controlled, so I admired her chaos, and strove for it unsuccessfully. I read her biography and some of her fiction, but none of it spoke to me like her journals.
If you get a chance to read them, in their modern, unexpurgated form, the journals of Anaïs Nin might be worth your time.