nom de plume-carmela ciuraru

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.


2 thoughts on “nom de plume-carmela ciuraru

  1. the mirror has two faces:

    “Emily, always reclusive, did not speak of her pain at reading the negative reviews; nor did she speak of her pain at reading the negative reviews; nor did she admit how hurtful it was to see Charlotte’s work bask in adulation at the same time. But after her death it was discovered that tucked inside her desk, Emily had saved the clippings of the reviews comparing her novel unfavorably with /Jane Eyre/.” (14)

    “Even his tea-brewing was a fanatical ritual: it must be steeped for exactly ten minutes, not a second more or less, or he would consider it undrinkable. And as it brewed, he would walk up and down his sitting room, swinging the teapot gently back and forth-always for precisely /ten/ minutes…..As a mathematician, he was fascinated by theories of randomness, but in life he was indefatigably controlling.” (81, Lewis Carrol & Charles Dodgson)

    “The jocular master of obfuscation was savvy about his own brand, eventually registering his alias as a trademark. He was his own best publicist and marketing director. He even incorporated himself under his nom de plume, so he officially became Mark Twain, Inc. He also trademarked the slogan on a box of ‘Mark Twain’-branded cigars that read ‘MARK TWAIN: KNOWN BY EVERYONE-LIKED BY ALL.’” (89)

    “Sometimes he would actually strut up and down busy streets in Manhattan, just as church services were ending and crowds were pouring out, so that he could bask in the sight of heads excitedly turning toward the great celebrity in their midst.” (94, Mark Twain & Samuel Clemens)

    “She was an eccentric character, said to have instructed her gardener to bowl turnips down a grass slope so that she could shoot at them. Maud almost always wore black or navy blue, and because she was a chain-smoker (of Turkish cigarettes), she was left in old age with only one brown-stained tooth. She refused to wear dentures.” (198)

    “The problem? An author can be awarded the Goncourt only once. Romain Gary had already won. That he could (secretly) win again gave his ego a significant boost and confirmed that, at sixty-one, he was still an important cultural figure-even if under the cloak of someone else. He’d shown that his talent was still intact.” ( 232, Romain Gary & Emile Ajar)

    “Perhaps Alice’s inability or unwillingness to create an entirely fictional background-familial or professional-for Tiptree indicated that on some level she hoped someone would discover her secret and that she would be made whole-freed from the burdens of duality. But for a while, no one did. And because Tiptree had no voice or body for others to know, people gave free rein to their fantasies about him.” (255-6, James Tiptree & Alice Sheldon)

    “Writing as himself did not slow his output; Simenon could easily complete a book a month, or even every few weeks. A /New York Times/ piece once noted that Simenon was a man who ‘can write a good novel in the time it takes a fallible human to turn out a passable book review.’” (279, Georges Simenon & Christian Brulls et al.)

    “It is amazing that Simenon found time for writing at all: because Tigy supposedly had little need for sex, he cheated on her several times a week, with Boule and other women. Sometimes he was unfaithful several times a day. Most years, he was able to maintain the frenzied pace of his writing; when his life was consumed with additional distractions, his average output was still four novels a year (more than some writers produce in a lifetime).” (281, Georges Simenon & Christian Brulls et al.)

    “Supposedly he wore the same outfit while writing each novel. For a normal writer, this might seem eccentric, but for Simenon, who could produce a book in a matter of days or a week, wearing the same clothes for the duration wasn’t so odd. And he weighed himself before and after completing each new book, so as to measure how much sweat the project had cost him.” (283, Georges Simenon & Christian Brulls et al.)

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