Anaïs Nin’s “Delta of Venus”

(1903–1977)

Anaïs Nin was one of the key diarists of the 20th century. Her most famous work though was Delta of Venus. According to Penguin Modern Classics, this book was as influential and revelatory in its day as Fifty Shades of Grey is today. Delta of Venus is now considered to be a groundbreaking anthology of erotic short stories. Each of the 14 stories is written in a vibrant and impassioned prose that literary critics say, evoke the essence of female sexuality in a world where, “only love has meaning.”

Do not seek the because – in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.

Nin’s diaries chronicle her search for fulfillment in what was often for women a painfully restrictive era (I’d say to be a woman today is still pretty fucking difficult, men love to objectify and control the ‘fairer sex’ [sic]*). She began these diaries in 1914 at the age of eleven and kept writing them until she passed away, some 60 years later.

In 1936 she published House of Incest a 72-page novel, where she vividly narrated incidents with her father that highlighted the inappropriate physical relationship she had with him. The book contemplates a dream that she calls ‘hell’, a hell that she wants to break loose from, a nightmare that she wants to wake up from, but seems to be trapped within.

We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anaïs Nin is said to have classified herself into the erotica genre without any sense of shame and is now considered to be one of the boldest female writers of erotica, with a renowned ability to project astutely both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ characters (indeed, she may be one of the best full stop, can you name a better fe/male writer of erotica? Fifty Shades was also penned by a female author).

You cannot save people, you can only love them.


* It’s an unfortunate fact that throughout history women have often been valued based largely on their looks. The term ‘fairer sex’ also implies delicateness. The phrases is now considered dated and, when used, may also have humorous (sic) intentions. The phrase’s etymology is ever so interesting!

‘sic’ used in brackets — [sic] — after a copied or quoted phrase is used to point out that while the phrases may be misspelt, odd or erroneous it is true to the original author’s words. Think of Donald Trump’s June 2019 Tweet ‘cocked and loaded.’ The usual idiom is “locked and loaded”, for which dates back to WWII and means literally: to prepare a firearm for firing by pulling back and ‘locking’ the bolt and loading the ammunition, and figuratively: to ready oneself for action or confrontation.




Kerouac’s “On the Road”

(1922–1969)

On the Road is the novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across the United States. It has been described as, “one of the great American novels.” Above all else, it is a story about loss. Ted Gioia contends that it is a book of broken dreams and failed plans. It’s a book about the search for something meaningful to hold on to,” writes Meghan O’Rourke, “the famous search for ‘it,’ a truth larger than the self, which, of course, is never found.”

My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.

Today, Kerouac is considered a literary iconoclast, recognised for his method of spontaneous prose — covering e.g., spirituality, promiscuity, drugs and poverty — and continues to be something of an underground celebrity. As Hilary Holladay puts it, “Kerouac was this deep, lonely, melancholy man… [you read this] sense of loss and sorrow on every page.” According to John Leland, aspects of the book such as the tales of passionate friendships and the search for revelation, “are timeless.”

Happiness consists in realising it is all a great strange dream.

From Russia with Love

we only live once, right?

Farewell, my good friend, farewell.
In my heart, forever, you’ll stay.
May the fated parting foretell
That again we’ll meet up someday.
Let no words, no handshakes ensue,
No saddened brows in remorse, –
To die, in this life, is not new,
And living’s no newer, of course.

Penned by: Sergei Yesenin (1895–1925), a Russian poet. After writing the above eight lines, he took his own life.

Ishiguro’s “Remains of the Day”

(1954– )

This is a moving book about the repressing of our desires. It is about how class conditioning can turn you into your own worst enemy, making you complicit in your own subservience. This book will strike a cord with anyone who feels they’ve ever held themselves back when something that truly mattered was within their grasp.

Hear all about it here

The [remainder] of my life stretches out as an emptiness before me.

British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro (who was born in Japan but moved to England at the age of five) is considered one of the eminent contemporary fiction authors in the English-speaking world, winning the Man Booker Prize for his 1989 novel, The Remains of the Day.

What can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves?

Of Human Bondage

Here I’m not talking the classic 1915 novel by English writer Somerset Maugham (the title of which is, tellingly perhaps, taken from a section of Spinoza’s Ethics).

Neither am I talking about the popular suburban pastime of human bondage (the consenting adult practice of tying or restraining another human being for erotic and/or aesthetic purposes).

I am here talking of human bondage. That is, humanity’s tendency to facilitate and permit modern day slavery. Almost all of us are slaves to the system and most of us are slaves to money. Yet everything is relative, we aren’t all underpaid and over-exploited, we aren’t all obligated to perform soul-destroying monotonous tasks. We aren’t all coerced and cajoled into demeaning and humiliating roles. But a great many are and therefore, I think we should not simply accept this to be “the way things are” rather than acquiescing to it and turning a blind eye to it we should seek to remedy it. After all we all live but only once (don’t we?)

Skulduggery

[noun]

In a sentence: “In the era of to Brexit or not, British politics is all skulduggery!”

Meaning: underhand, unscrupulous, or dishonest activities.

skulduggery //

Synonyms: double-dealing, jiggery-pokery, monkey business, shenanigans.

double dealing //

jiggery-pokery //

monkey business //

shenanigans //

Etymology etc.: interestingly the term has no direct connection to either skulls or digging. The word appears to originate in Britain during the 18th c. where sculduddery meant ‘indecency’ or ‘breach of chastity,’ defined at the time in legal terms as: “fornication or adultery.” Today the word means ‘underhanded dealings,’ ‘trickery’ or ‘clandestine machinations’ and is most often associated with cloak-and-dagger intelligence agencies such as the UK’s MI6*, it was famously used by The Times in 1980, “Watergate was such a sensational piece of skulduggery.”**


* MI6
In the UK, MI5 deals with security threats within Great Britain, and MI6 combat overseas threats to Britain and/or British overseas interests (MI = Military Intelligence). For the USA, there’s the FBI for security threats within America and the CIA for threats to American and/or American overseas interests (FBI = Federal Bureau of Investigation; CIA = Central Intelligence Agency).

** Watergate
The Watergate scandal was a major American political scandal in the 1970s. It resulted from a robbery at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters (the “Watergate” office complex in Washington) and Republican President Richard Nixon’s subsequent attempt to cover up his administration’s involvement in the robbery.

“What’s on the box?”

bugger all (i.e., nothing much)

This question – what’s on the box? – used to be heard frequently in the homes of Britain. This was because televisions used to be box-shaped and because there was no internet so watching TV together was the national pastime.

This phrase is becoming obsolete, not least because TVs are now flat. But more significantly because nowadays, people rarely watch broadcast TV. They tend instead to watch catch-up TV (e.g., via BBC’s iPlayer) or streaming services (such as Netflix) more often than not, alone.

As I say,

“If you wanna pacify your kids, turn on the box and they’ll shut their gobs.”

Groucho Marx once said,

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”