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Nom De Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms

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Nom De Plume

A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms

By Carmela Ciuraru

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Format: Hardback, 368 pages
Published In: United States, 01 July 2011
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What's in a name?In our "look at me" era, everyone's a brand. Privacy now seems a quaint relic, and self-effacement is a thing of the past. Yet, as Nom de Plume reminds us, this was not always the case. Exploring the fascinating stories of more than a dozen authorial impostors across several centuries and cultures, Carmela Ciuraru plumbs the creative process and the darker, often crippling aspects of fame. Biographies have chronicled the lives of pseudonymous authors such as Mark Twain, Isak Dinesen, and George Eliot, but never before have the stories behind many noms de plume been collected into a single volume. These are narratives of secrecy, obsession, modesty, scandal, defiance, and shame: Only through the protective guise of Lewis Carroll could a shy, half-deaf Victorian mathematician at Oxford feel free to let his imagination run wild. The "three weird sisters" (as they were called by the poet Ted Hughes) from Yorkshire--the Brontes--produced instant bestsellers that transformed them into literary icons, yet they wrote under the cloak of male authorship. Bored by her aristocratic milieu, a cigar-smoking, cross-dressing baroness rejected the rules of propriety by having sexual liaisons with men and women alike, publishing novels and plays under the name George Sand.Grounded by research yet highly accessible and engaging, these provocative, astonishing stories reveal the complex motives of writers who harbored secret identities--sometimes playfully, sometimes with terrible anguish and tragic consequences. A wide-ranging examination of pseudonyms both familiar and obscure, Nom de Plume is part detective story, part expose, part literary history, and an absorbing psychological meditation on identity and creativity.

Reviews

"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."--John Banville, author of The Sea, winner of the Man Booker Prize "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."--Joyce Carol Oates "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."--Phillip Lopate "This survey of authors who sought anonymity and privacy is well researched. Amid informative, illuminating profiles, Ciuraru successfully ferrets out curious literary charades."--Publishers Weekly "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."--Chelsea Now Magazine "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."--The Reading Ape Blog "Our curator is always having fun in "Nom De Plume," and, as a result, so are we."--Jewish Daily Forward "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."--San Francisco Chronicle "An engrossing, well-paced literary history...biography on the quick, and done well."--BookForum "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."--Associated Press "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 "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."--Boston Globe "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."--The Daily "Ms. Ciuraru...writes with clarity and confidence, and her research is impressive."--Wall Street Journal "Nom De Plume is wildly entertaining, almost gossipy, but travels on the high end of the literary landscape. This book is beyond great."--Bookazine ."..Ciuraru, a freelance literary journalist, writes well and has a fully functioning sense of humor, so "Nom de Plume" is a pleasure to read..."--Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World "With description that captures the imagination, Nom de Plume is what nonfiction should be - accessible, thought-provoking, and highly entertaining."--Christian Science Monitor "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 "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."--Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them "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."--Los Angeles Times ."..'Nom de Plume' is part detective story, part expos?, part literary history, and an absorbing psychological meditation on identity and creativity. It's a delightful book."--Huntington News "Our curator is always having fun in 'Nom De Plume, ' and, as a result, so are we."--Jewish Daily Forward ..".Ciuraru, a freelance literary journalist, writes well and has a fully functioning sense of humor, so "Nom de Plume" is a pleasure to read..."--Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World "Nom de Plume is a delicious investigation of what leads the likes of the Brontes, 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."--Honor Moore, author of The Bishop's Daughter ..".'Nom de Plume' is part detective story, part expose, part literary history, and an absorbing psychological meditation on identity and creativity. It's a delightful book."--Huntington News

EAN: 9780061735264
ISBN: 0061735264
Publisher: HarperCollins
Dimensions: 21.56 x 14.66 x 3.76 centimetres (0.36 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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