Academic journal article Studies in Short Fiction

Noli Me Tangere: The Structure of Anais Nin's under a Glass Bell

Academic journal article Studies in Short Fiction

Noli Me Tangere: The Structure of Anais Nin's under a Glass Bell

Article excerpt

When the firm of Houghton, Mifflin published Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs in 1910, the year following the author's death, it added two chapters to the text that had first appeared in 1896. The publisher added another story to the 1919 edition. More than a century following the death of Herman Melville, Herschel Parker startled the literary world with his edition of Melville's Pierre (1995). In eliminating a substantial amount of material from the 1852 text, the only edition published during Melville's lifetime, Parker implied that he understood better than the author Melville's desires regarding the contents of this novel. Clearly, some editors create texts of which the authors themselves did not and possibly--probably?--would not approve.

Editors have also rearranged the contents of texts by deceased authors. After adding chapters to The Country of the Pointed Firs, Houghton, Mifflin changed the sequence of some of Jewett's stories for the 1924 edition. The following year, Willa Cather rearranged them again. Samuel Clemens left specific instructions that his autobiography, when published, should follow the haphazard, nonchronological sequence in which he wrote about his life. Although Albert Bigelow Paine, the fist editor, more-or-less honored Clemens's request in 1924, Bernard DeVoto, the second editor (1940), and Charles Neider, the third (1959), did not (Kiskis xvi-xxiv). Unlike DeVoto and Neider, Malcolm Cowley had authorial "permission" for rearranging a text. When Tender Is the Night was published in 1934, its plot did not progress chronologically, although its author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, subsequently thought that it should. In 1951, Cowley published it in the manner the author ultimately desired. While Clemens and Fitzgerald attempted to influence how their works would be structured, Anais Nin, to the best of my knowledge, left no instructions for rearranging her stories in Under a Glass Bell, a collection that has recently been reorganized.

When Nin could not place her work with commercial publishers in the 1940s, she established the Gemor Press, which published four volumes of her fiction. Two of the titles, Winter of Artifice (1942) and House of Incest (1947), had been published in limited editions by small Paris presses in the 1930s.(1) Of the other two, which were previously unpublished, one, This Hunger (1945), includes a story and two novellas and has not been republished; the other, Under a Glass Bell (1944), collects eight tales Nin had written in the late 1930s and early 1940s and includes a foreword.(2) Over the years, the contents of Under a Glass Bell changed, first with the addition of two novellas, the prose poem The House of Incest, and a story to the 1947 edition, and then with the deletion of the foreword and The House of Incest but with the addition of four tales in 1948. With this edition, Nin arranged her 13 stories in a sequence that would remain uniform for almost 50 years. In 1957, she deleted the two novellas she had added to the 1948 edition. From 1957 until 1995, the only variation in the contents of this book was a Nin preface that appears in the 1968 and 1978 editions. In 1995, however, the Swallow Press/Ohio University Press published a new edition, with the stories rearranged by Gunther Stuhlmann, Nin's longtime agent, who, as editor of Anais: An International Journal and a number of Nin's books, including volumes of the Diary, has made valuable, lasting contributions to Nin's work.(3) His restructuring of Under a Glass Bell begs the questions of why Nin arranged the stories as she did and why Stuhlmann reorganized them in a sequence she did not approve. I believe that she structured them according to compelling literary logic. He decided to reorder the tales on the basis of a vague and insupportable editorial rationale that he, himself, did not follow.

Nin cared about the contents of her books. When they displeased her, she rewrote, added to, deleted from, or rearranged them until she was satisfied. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.