Nin’s indulgent, figurative prose may not appeal to everyone; her prose can be self-involved to a fault. Many of the stories read as undisguised excerpts from her famous and numerous diaries, and still others evoke their centrality in her creative life: “I was eleven years old when I walked into the labyrinth of my diary” (The Labyrinth). However, her life-long practice of journal writing has enabled her to shore up a capacity for observing others as well. Under A Glass Bell is magnetic when the narrator (often an ‘I’ barely distinguishable from Nin herself) extols the virtues of one of her various and terrible characters, whether a woman deep in the incoherent throes of childbirth or an artist conversing in his insanity.
Much of the stories’ impact comes from Nin’s penchant for vivid imagery, exemplified by the rare and beautiful Persian prints sent to the title story’s heroine, Jeanne. Such singular images signify emotion, often without bending to plot. Thus the stories of Under A Glass Bell read like postcards from a place withstanding a Mount Washington wind, featuring pictures of things which have been burnt long ago yet retain an extreme heat.