a (secret) history of pseudonyms
“my aliases have aliases”
i judged this book by its cover. a tweet that led to the year’s best book cover art yielded this one, and once again, i am so very pleased. much like i’ve been hooked into entourage largely because of the music selection and his tumblr led me to cleanbandit and more solange tracks, i love the path that books lead us on, no matter their place in the journey. i thought it was a general book on pseudonyms, it was an added bonus that it was about famous writers.
“The merging of an author and an alter ego is an unpredictable thing. It can become a marriage, like a faithful and sturdy partnership, or it can prove a swift, intoxicating affair. A clandestine literary self can be tried on temporarily, to produce a sing work, then dropped like a robe; or the guise might exist as something to be guarded at all costs. The attraction is obvious and undeniable. Entering another body (figuratively, ecstatically) is almost an erotic impulse. Historically, many writers have been lonely outsiders, which is why inhabiting another self offers an intimacy that seems otherwise unobtainable. In the absence of real-life companionship, the pseudonymous entity can serve as confidant, keeper of secrets, and protective shield.” (xiv)
“As many writers know firsthand, the literary world is tough: one minute you’re the toast of the town; the next minute you’re just toast. The desire to emancipate oneself from the shackles of familiarity and start anew, under an altogether different name, makes perfect sense. In fact, why not more pseudonyms?” (xxii)
“She always wanted to play the harpsichord. She did play the recorder. She kept snails as pets because she enjoyed watching them copulate, liked their indeterminate gender and self-sufficiency, and said they provided a sense of tranquility-this from someone almost incapable of relaxation. Her fondness for snails was such that she kept three hundred of them in her garden in Suffolk and insisted on traveling with them. When she moved to France in 1967, she smuggled snails into the country by hiding them under her breasts-and she made several trips back and forth to smuggle them all. Her favorite snails were named Hortense and Edgar. Her favorite flower was the carnation. She liked her Scotch neat. She had bad teeth.” (294, Patricia Highsmith & Claire Morgan)
and what a lovely portrait of a writer.