Anais Nin brought an artistic elegance to her erotica. Delta of Venus is a fantastic example of her craft. Written in the 1940's for an anonymous collector, the short stories explore various aspects of sexual expression with a delicate sensibility that does not shy away from darker impulses.
The characters in Delta exist in a hedonistic fantasy. Nin's Paris is full of writers, artists, models and whores. They have enough money to spend on drinks, drugs, parties, hotels, prostitutes and cafes, but none of them seems to have jobs that interfere with their passions. Monogamy isn't an expectation in marriage and a single glance across a bar is enough to spark an anonymous liaison in a closet. Everyone seems both comfortable with their own bodies and willing to explore someone else's. In the hands of a lesser writer, these stories might come out no better than the artificial letters in Penthouse Forum. In Delta of Venus, Nin creates a vision of Paris that is decadent, sensual and stylish.
If you're not a fan of stream of consciousness writing, this book might be hard to follow. Characters in stories will often tell stories of their own that can become confusing, especially if you're listening to the audio book. Nin also has a tendency to float away on tangents about Parisian women or German occupation before WW II that accentuate the setting but diffuse the erotic tension. None of this takes away from the quality of the writing, but it does take some getting used to.
Anais Nin is one of my favorite writers and Delta of Venus is one of her best books. If I could create an intimacy in my writing that comes anywhere close to this, my journey as a writer will be completely. Maybe I just need to move to Paris...