Ciuraru…writes well and has a fully functioning sense of humor, so
Nom de Plume is a pleasure to read… The Washington Post
Ciuraru (Solitude Poems) includes 18 writers—from George Sand to George Orwell—in her lively literati masquerade party, recounting events that led to their pen names along with intriguing peeks behind their masks. In 1899, William Sydney Porter began writing as O. Henry: "Because he used an intermediary in New Orleans to submit his stories to editors, no one knew they were by a convicted felon." Eric Blair became George Orwell with his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, telling his publisher, "I am not proud of it." An outstanding chapter details how Alice Sheldon spotted "Tiptree" on a marmalade jar and then fooled the science fiction community for years as James Tiptree Jr. When the ruse was revealed, "She was crushed to find that some of the male writers she'd considered friends... turned their backs on her." Patricia Highsmith used another name on her lesbian novel and wrote for comic books, but since she gave her credits to The Who's Who of American Comic Books, it's quite a stretch to call that a "secret life." Otherwise, this survey of authors who sought anonymity and privacy is well researched. Amid informative, illuminating profiles, Ciuraru successfully ferrets out curious literary charades. (June 14)
“Ciuraru’s writing is bright, lively, and smart, making Nom de Plume both informative and extremely enjoyable to read. I strongly recommend this read for any fans of biography, especially writers, and perhaps even more especially, women writers.”
The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog
“An engrossing, well-paced literary history…biography on the quick, and done well.”
“Our curator is always having fun in ‘Nom De Plume,’ and, as a result, so are we.”
“…‘Nom de Plume’ is part detective story, part exposé, part literary history, and an absorbing psychological meditation on identity and creativity. It’s a delightful book.”
“You are on the second-to-last page of Carmela Ciuraru’s NOM DE PLUME and wishing you weren’t because this book is such great fun...Intelligent, confident, and trustworthy.”
“Ms. Ciuraru…writes with clarity and confidence, and her research is impressive.”
“With description that captures the imagination, Nom de Plume is what nonfiction should be - accessible, thought-provoking, and highly entertaining.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Ciuraru’s treatments of her subjects sparkle with rich, well-arranged detail and the sly wit of literary hindsight. With a central focus that remains urgent and appealing for 21st century readers even as it dissects the personal lives of authors long past, Nom de Plume is surely an important book.”
“Stories of self-invention are always interesting to read about, especially in Carmela Ciuraru’s Nom de Plume. Ciuraru’s book presents a persuasive argument that the generative powers of the pseudonym should persist.”
“Fascinating, lively, and fun - you can’t do much better than to read about George Sand, born Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, who adopted a swaggering male persona to go along with the name.”
“Ciuraru builds each history as its own personal story, then builds the literary charm and genius behind the pathos, … a tale of literary genius all its own.”
“Engaging without being breezy, informative without being pedantic, these essays offer insightful, fascinating literary portraits without the solemness and heft of so many literary biographies. Ciuraru gets to the essence of their lives efficiently and evocatively, which makes for pleasant and piquant summer literary non-fiction.”
“Carmela Ciuraru’s Nom de Plume deftly tells the stories of some of literature’s most famous pen names. For anyone who creates the book will enthrall. As much a meditation on the creative process as it is a tell-all about their names and the intrigue that created them.”
“Nom de Plume is filled with tremendous insight into the minds of these writers and their ability to create not only works of fiction within the covers of their books, but fictional lives for themselves as well....beautifully researched and deftly written-pure pleasure from cover to cover.”
New York Journal of Books
“Nom de Plume is a fascinating collection of stories—populated by individuals whose ‘doubleness’ is so distinct that they acquire secondary personalities, and, in some notable cases, multiple personalities. It’s a richly documented literary excursion into the inner, secret lives of some of our favorite writers.”
“A fascinating book on a fascinating subject. We all have other selves, but only some of us give them a name and let them loose in the world. Carmela Ciuraru steps behind a host of shadowy facades to interrogate the originals, and the result is both enlightening and wonderfully entertaining.”
“What to make of the paradox that some of the boldest writers have hidden behind pen names? Carmela Ciuraru has performed a valuable service in examining the phenomenon through her charming, sprightly, and illuminating biographical essays.”
“Nom de Plume is a delicious investigation of what leads the likes of the Brontës, Samuel Clemens, and Karen Blixen to ditch their names for safer, more romantic identities when they write. Whether their reasons are practical or mysterious, their lives and choices are here charmingly limned by Carmela Ciuraru.”
“Each page affords sparkling facts and valuable insights onto the manufacturing of books and reputations, the keeping and revealing of secrets, the vagaries of private life and public opinion, and the eternally mysterious, often tormented interface between life and literature.”
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.