I want to tell you why I, who have nurtured so many other memoirs to publication, finally felt free to write my own memoir about my mentor, Anaïs Nin, and why it took me so long to address the subject and begin the book.

What follows is the preface that I wrote for the opening of Apprenticed to Venus to be published July 11, 2017 by Arcade. It was cut from the final edit of the book for reasons of length. I put it here because I suspect I am not the only diarist to feel repulsed upon reading the outpourings of a younger self.



Hawaii, 2006

I don’t know how the L.A. Times journalist got my phone number at the remote Hawaii house I co-owned. She had interrupted my prep for a filmmaking class I was teaching that summer for the university in Hilo.

“I’m calling you because Anaïs Nin’s husband Rupert Pole died. I understand that you were Nin’s friend and protégé. You and she wrote The New Diary.

“No, that’s a mistake on Amazon. I wrote that book. She just wrote the preface.”

“Whatever, you worked together. You were also friends with Rupert, so I was hoping you’d comment…”

I was dumbstruck. Not by news of Rupert’s death (he’d had several strokes) but because it meant – after 42 years – I was finally free from my pledge to Anaïs that I would hide her secrets involving him forever.

“No one can keep a secret forever.” She’d given me a canny smile. “You need only keep silent until Rupert dies.”

Now, some thirty years after her death, Rupert had died. Now this journalist was phoning, now I was the age Anaïs had been when I’d made my vow. Long after the biographers, who never knew her, had unearthed her dirt. Could this young journalist think there was still something worth digging for? I threw her a bone, quickly hung up, and sat in a muddle, unmoving, staring at the surf snaking along the shore.

In the following months, as I drove to U.H. Hilo’s small campus to teach, snippets from my years as Anaïs’ accomplice buzzed and nipped at me. They gave me an itch to look inside my own diaries written between 1962 and ‘76, when Anaïs was my mentor in the realm of the senses.

When I got back to my home in Los Angeles, I climbed a stepladder to reach the high shelf where my diaries from the ‘60’s and 70’s moldered. I had written those diaries for my older self to read, and now I was my older self. With maturity, though, I’d developed a prudishness that disowned the young woman who had scribbled those journals. As I hoisted down a Hippyish handmade volume with wooden-covers, I dreaded what I’d find. Only a quarter of the way through that fervent diary I had to put it aside, nauseated.

Yet as the first decade of the 21st Century slid in its downward arc, I realized that I again needed my younger self’s passion and daring, needed to remember a time when material things mattered not at all, needed the hunger and inspiration that comes with exalting a mentor, deserved or not. Entangled as I had been with Anaïs, I would finally have to sort out her influence on my life. For me that meant, now that I could, setting down our intertwined stories: her divine seductiveness, her madcap ruses and countless deceptions, my too willing complicity, and the shared injury of father abandonment that had forged our bond as co-conspirators and seductresses.

So it was that I followed the pliant, fuzzy twine of memory, rather than the diary’s sharp shards, back into Anaïs’ silken web. In reveries, I felt again the touch of her cool fingers and heard the chime of her laughter, as we walked together in late afternoon, our figures, so similar, casting before us as long, Giacometti shadows. Once more, the angled sun in that century past caught the scar along her delicate ear and polished her silvery lids, as she whispered confidences to me, delivered like a kiss.


Elle magazine included Tristine’s upcoming book, Apprenticed to Venus, in their summer reads round-up.

Read the article here >>

Pre-order the book now through, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, IndieBound, or your favorite local bookstore.


In 1966 erotic author Anaïs Nin, Parisian lover of Henry Miller, published her intimate Diaries and became an iconic goddess of women’s sexual freedom. Boomer women lived out the image of a liberated single woman that Nin crafted in editing her diaries, and young women are still pursuing sexual freedoms that she proclaimed:

“A woman has as much right to pleasure as a man!”

In reality Nin was far from free, entrapped in a life of deception, married simultaneously to two husbands she could not choose between.

Tristine Rainer met Nin before she became known to the public. As an 18-year-old virgin from the San Fernando Valley, she was sent on an errand to Anaïs’ Greenwich Village apartment and became entranced by the older woman’s world of sensuality and sophistication. She begged Anaïs’ guidance in becoming a woman, eventually following in her mentor’s footsteps of adventurous passion. She writes in Apprenticed to Venus,

“These mirror encounters were not really about the men; they were about Anaïs and me, our game of twinship. They were about watching and being watched, the diarist’s obsessions.”

As Tristine is manipulated into running interference and spying to protect the secret of Anaïs’ bigamy, she enters the dangers and excitement of a true-life psychological thriller. Yet the book is also a moving personal narrative of the bonding and love, the envy and distrust, and finally the gifts and legacy of a deep literary friendship.


Anaïs Nin introduced me to John Ferrone, her Harcourt Brace Jovanovich editor, at her Silverlake, California house where she lived with Rupert Pole as his wife. John, a New Yorker, knew her other husband, Hugo Guiler, as well and was privy to the secret of Anaïs’ double life. As one of the most grace-full men I have known, both in his manner and his movements, he was at ease in the world of sexual/​emotional discretion. He’d lived the life of an undisguised gay man of 1950’s in New York, and it was a world he negotiated with integrity and subtlety.

In 1978 when I published my first book The New Diary in hardbound, John made an offer to my publisher, Jeremy Tarcher, for Harcourt to acquire the paperback rights. Although he was contractually obligated to inform me of the offer, Tarcher without my knowledge rejected the Harcourt offer out of hand. When later I learned from John that he’d made the trade paperback offer while no one had told me, he was outraged. He was a gentile literary editor, a breed that has all but disappeared, a man of honor who pledged his impressive gifts to enhance the work of his authors and stay in the background. He was modest about the vast improvements he made in Anaïs Nin’s prose.

Anaïs, who most valued spontaneity in writing, once told me dismissively flicking her fingers, “Punctuation, grammar, that’s for editors.” John did far more than correct her unschooled grammar and punctuation, though. He highlighted the intelligence and emotional wisdom in her outpourings while giving her work an aesthetic subtlety it would otherwise lack.

Because of his commitment to make Anais’ writing shine in the best light, John’s relationship with Rupert became antagonistic after her death. Each man complained to me about the other. Rupert wanted to preserve Anais’ every word as she wrote it. He was working with John on Harcourt’s publication of her posthumous erotic work. John was dedicated to making her writing as honed as possible, which required cutting and shaping. They both loved her and her memory and, as with so many people who have loved her or her work, felt an almost irrational exclusive ownership of her.

Yet on another occasion I recall an evening when John and Rupert were as jovial as two teenage buddies together. I was then in my 30’s and working as President of Grand Central Films, a co-venture between Thames Television and an American production company. I wanted to option the Diaries as a network television mini-series. Since John was visiting L.A. and I then had an unlimited expense account, I invited John and Rupert to an expensive trendy restaurant near Paramount. They were adorable, each vying to be the most charming and witty, like competing beaus. Anaïs was gone, but her flirtatious spirit was with us that night.

In later years I would phone John when I visited New York and he would always make time to take me to lunch or dinner or, even better, cook for me. We both enjoyed literary gossip and swapping stories about Anaïs’ foibles and secrets. He was lonely after his partner died, and for such a reserved gentleman, warm and vulnerable when he talked about the importance – the centrality – of love in our lives.

I recall only one disagreement between John and myself; it was just a half-full/​half empty difference in perspective. I had been admiring Anaïs’ tenacity in working on herself, in transforming herself from a neurotic, frustrated unpublished writer into a joyous woman who shared her hard-won success and wisdom with others. John bemoaned that Anaïs enjoyed the publication of her Diaries and her emotional equanimity so late in her life. “She only had a few years before knowledge of her cancer ruined it,” he said, “It took her so long to get what she wanted. She enjoyed it so briefly.”

“But she got there. She realized her dreams,” I said.

He shook his head. “Too briefly.”

I understand those feelings now, John. You had a relatively long life, living despite Parkinsons Disease to 91. My regret is that our friendship blossomed only in your later years and lasted too briefly, too briefly.


Many modern lives do not look like a Hero’s Journey or a Quest. They are too full of unrelated stops and starts. Women’s lives especially, are fragmented by constant interruptions. You are pursuing a career, then stop for a while to raise your children while they are young, then you may work with your husband in his office, stop to care for an invalid relative, divorce and remarry, go back to school in an entirely new field. Men’s lives now, too, are more fragmented than they used to be. You may be following a quest in your chosen career only to find that it has been eliminated by new technologies; you retrain and find a new job only to be laid off; you may live with periods of unemployment and incrementally, lowered salary expectations, which makes the hero’s linear quest an inapt model for your life.

The quilt image, patched together from fragments worth saying, provides and alternative image for a life’s structure. It bears similarity to a particularly modern literary strategy of assembling many short pieces (often short stories) into an extended work. For instance, George Saunders’ extraordinary Tenth of December, Stories, Random House, 2013. When you follow the quilt model of assembling a work, you spontaneously write and collect pieces that seem to you thematically related. As you proceed, a pattern or story begins to link the pieces. Certain areas will easily cluster, but you won’t have the whole picture until it is all in place.

Contemporary autobiographic story collections such as Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, Pam Houston’s Cowboys Are My Weakness, and Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted follow a quiltlike structure in that each story stands on its own, and looked at together, the assembled stories tell a larger story. In quiltlike structures, the attempt to create smooth transitions is dispensed with in favor of tighter unity within each story or chapter. Transitions are often like cinematic cuts, which leave it to the viewer to read-in links between disparate pieces set side by side.

In a quiltlike book there is often a series of discrete minor character arcs instead of one major one. An unresolved problem expresses itself first in one story and then in another. The final realization in the last story is possible because of all the realizations in the story have led up to it.

It could be said that the edited diaries of Anais Nin are another type of autobiographic quilt. They were set down spontaneously as natural diaries, but when Nin chose to publish them, she went back and edited and rewrote from the perspective of a later point in time. She decided what her themes would be in each volume and edited for those themes, eliminating whatever did not seem relevant. In the first edited Diary (1931-1934), her central theme is the young woman becoming an artist; in Diary II (1934-1939), it is the discovery of inner time as opposed to outer time. Later volumes lack comparable unity, but the importance of Nin’s work is not so much in her skill as writer/editor and not in her faithfulness to literal truth. Although overlooked, Nin’s importance is in creating a new hybrid literary form, something between diary and autobiography.

Writing a single autobiographic short story that could (or might not) become part of a book length work is a great way to begin writing for those who don’t want to dive into the deep-end of a full length memoir. Autobiographic short stories are easier than ever to publish in literary e-journals or as audible stories for This American Life or The Moth. The short stories you see in old school popular magazines such as Vogue and Seventeen are of autobiographic short stories published as fiction.