Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Little Birds, by Anaïs Nin

(pb; 1979: erotica anthology)

Overall review:

This is one of my all-time favorite erotic anthologies. I've read this three times, but I don't recall reviewing it.

Nin's influence on my own story writing is immeasurable.

Nin favors mood and character exploration over overt plots, which, when I subconsciously conjure up her influence in my writing, helps -- has helped -- me balance my preference for penning quick-minded plots/action over character development/mood.

Organically erotic and sometimes disturbing, even her slighter stories are written in an assured and consistently reader-hooking manner; in this collection, only a couple of so-so stories are on display: "The Chanchiquito" (which is flat-out strange); "Two Sisters" (which reads like a flitting, if restrained, soap opera early on).

Standout stories:

"Little Birds": A married man (Manuel) who enjoys watching school girls at innocent public play builds an exotic birdhouse to fascinate them, bring them into viewing range. Disturbing, sharp, with a sublime exit line (despite its repellant subject).

"The Woman on the Dunes": Steamy entry about a young man (Louis) who is seduced by a mysterious woman; the woman tells him about a recent, macabre -- and joyous -- sexual encounter. One of the most memorable 'life in the midst of death'-themed short works I've ever read.

"Sirocco": A woman recounts a scandalous travel experience to a houseguest. Like "The Woman on the Dunes," this expertly-spun tale effortlessly seduces the reader.

"Saffron": Fay, a poor New Orleans woman, marries a wealthy older man (Albert) whose reticence to end her virginity cloaks a darker truth. Sad, harsh, this story.

"Runaway": Jeanette, a sixteen-year old runaway, becomes -- at different times -- the lover of two roommates (Jean and Pierre), who take different approaches in dealing with her. This story's theme-centric exit line, clichéd in the hands of a lesser writer, is rendered deceptively simple and sublime in Nin's.

Other stories:

"Lina" (a jealous homophobe visits her sexually adventurous female friend in Paris);

"Two Sisters" (longer piece about a group of people around two women, Edna and Dorothy, who are done and undone by repression, passion, deception and infidelity);

"The Maja" (a bourgeois Catholic wife slowly comes to an understanding of her painter husband, and her own sensuality);

"A Model" (one of the longer stories in the collection - a young virgin model engages in international travel and learns about physical love vicariously through others);

"The Queen" (a painter rhapsodizes about his favorite artistic and sexual subject, a "cold" whore named Bijou).

"Hilda and Rango" (a woman, used to the particular sexual demands of one lover, adapts to the varied demands of a new lover).

"The Chanchiquito" (strange entry about a woman [Laura], a legendary pig-like creature, and an amorous painter).

"Mandra" (a bisexual woman New York woman has sexual encounters with a quick succession of upper class lovers. Fleet-footed, blurring-memoried tale, whose plot keeps pace with daily city life).

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