Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonymsby Carmela Ciuraru
Mary Anne Evans. Charles Dodgson. Eric Blair. William Sydney Porter. Or, as they are more commonly remembered, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, and O. Henry. For these writers and many others, from Mark Twain to Stan Lee to Robert Jordan, the invocation of a nom de plume has been an essential part in the creation of an authorial identity. Now, in/i>
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Mary Anne Evans. Charles Dodgson. Eric Blair. William Sydney Porter. Or, as they are more commonly remembered, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, and O. Henry. For these writers and many others, from Mark Twain to Stan Lee to Robert Jordan, the invocation of a nom de plume has been an essential part in the creation of an authorial identity. Now, in a captivating series of biographical snapshots exploring the lives of famous authors and their pen names, author Carmela Ciuraru delivers a unique literary history and a penetrating examination of identity, creativity, and self-creation, revisiting the enduring questionwhats in a name?
In her nonfiction debut, anthologist Ciuraru (editor: Poems About Horses, 2009, etc.) presents brief biographies of a handful of pseudonymous authors from George Sand to the late 20th century.
What motivates a writer to publish under another name? Ciuraru offers quite a few reasons in these biographical sketches of writers whose works of fiction appearedunder a pseudonym and one, Portugal's Fernando Pessoa, who wrote under more than 70 heteronyms, separate personalities each with its own style and extensive imaginary biography.Most of the Ciuraru's choices are familiar figures—Mark Twain, George Orwell, Lewis Carroll, Sylvia Plath—and each section begins with a single introductory sentence that may be intended as intriguing but often serves instead to suggest an unsettling contempt for her subjects. If there is a consistent lesson to be taken from these lives, it is that a successful author will find it nearly impossible to hide behind a pseudonym for long. Otherwise, these authors have little in common; their reasons for publishing pseudonymously and their attitudes toward their alter egos are as varied as their life stories. Ciuraru does not attempt to find a pattern among them or impose one upon them, nor does she explain how her subjects' struggles with identity issues might differ from those of other authors. Written in a breezy style that occasionally lapses into the vernacular, the biographies are lively and entertaining, but they provide no real secrets or startling revelations. The omission of endnotes will disappoint readers attempting to determine whether an assertion is the author's own or reflects a scholarly consensus, or those seeking the sources of delicious factual tidbits like the width of Emily Brontë's coffin (17 inches).
A collection of original literary biographies connected by a single circumstance that does not by itself suffice to pull them together.
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Meet the Author
Carmela Ciuraru is not a pseudonym. Her anthologies include First Loves: Poets Introduce the Essential Poems That Captivated and Inspired Them and Solitude Poems. She is a graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Elle Decor, ARTNews, O, The Oprah Magazine, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn.
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