Fashion Book: Henry & June
The first time I heard of Anais Nin was from a Jewel song. She sings, “You can be Henry Miller and I’ll be Anais Nin. This time it’ll be even better, we’ll stay together in the end.” I was fourteen, and it seemed like whatever Anais and Henry had had was incredibly romantic. I knew that they were both famous writers, but beyond that, I hadn’t a clue.
I still haven’t read any Henry Miller, but I do know his writing is…racy, shall we say? It was with my 14-year-old romantic notions intact that I picked up Henry & June at a used book sale in a church basement a few months ago. I read it a couple of weeks ago and I wish I could say my romantic notions were still intact, but they were shattered pretty quickly. The book is taken from Nin’s journals, which she was fanatical about, writing in them nearly every day and devoting different journals to different topics. Henry had several notebooks devoted entirely to him, parts of which she allowed him to read.
Henry & June chronicles Nin’s relationship with Henry Miller and his wife June from 1931-1932, in Paris. Initially, Nin is more drawn to June than she is to Henry. June is incendiary and gorgeous and has a strange power over nearly everyone she meets. Nin falls in love with her, even questioning her sexuality, though she is married to a man. When June leaves Paris, Nin starts spending time with Henry and the two soon fall in love themselves, embarking on what is essentially a “sexual awakening” for Nin. During this time, she waffles between loving Henry passionately, then not loving him as much as she loves her husband, or her cousin, or her psychiatrist (seriously).
There’s no question that Nin was liberated for her time. And it’s interesting to get her take on sex and relationships and the creative life, but I found the book to be disappointing. Because it’s composed only of diary entries, it’s difficult to follow at times, and Nin’s constant mood shifts are frustrating (I can’t imagine how her husband must have felt!). I even found that what’s been billed a steamy book wasn’t all that steamy.
So, reading this did dash my young idolatry of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, but I still think Nin is an impressive writer and was a forward-thinking woman. In creating this look, I drew on vintage elements, as Nin often references wearing a rose dress and says she feels her best when wearing an old black dress with ripped up elbows. To each their own!