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Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms Paperback – 29 May 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (29 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061735272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061735271
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 899,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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.Only through the protective guise of L

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By takingadayoff TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover
You could draw the conclusion, after reading this book, that writers who use pen names are weird. But that's probably not a fair conclusion. Author Carmela Ciuraru had a universe of writers with pen names to pick from and there was no point in picking the normal, boring ones.

Writers have different reasons for choosing pseudonyms, and Ciuraru seems to have picked the authors whose own identities were overshadowed by their alter egos, even in their own lifetimes. Perhaps the oddest of the bunch was Fernando Pessoa, who with over seventy identities, was a troubled and sick man. The Bronte sisters used men's names to maintain their anonymity and to give themselves an advantage in getting published. They were the least strange of the bunch.

My reading of Nom de Plume gravitated toward the authors whose works I have read and I was fascinated to read the story of Georges Simenon, who was busy enough to be at least a dozen men, but was astonishingly only one. He wrote an average of four books a year throughout his life and still had time to conduct multiple affairs. Obviously time management was a special talent of his.

Patricia Highsmith only wrote one book under a pseudonym, and therefore barely qualifies to be in this book, but her story is so peculiar, unpleasant, and irresistible, that Ciuraru had to include it.

Mark Twain was not only the well-known pen name of Samuel Clemens, but was the smoother, friendlier version of the man. Clemens was grumpy, depressed, and difficult, but Mark Twain was the funny, wry, publicly acceptable persona.

What surprised me was the number of writers who not only adopted pen names, but seemed to prefer their new identities to the old ones.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Who is that Writer Behind the Mask? 19 Jun. 2012
By takingadayoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
You could draw the conclusion, after reading this book, that writers who use pen names are weird. But that's probably not a fair conclusion. Author Carmela Ciuraru had a universe of writers with pen names to pick from and there was no point in picking the normal, boring ones.

Writers have different reasons for choosing pseudonyms, and Ciuraru seems to have picked the authors whose own identities were overshadowed by their alter egos, even in their own lifetimes. Perhaps the oddest of the bunch was Fernando Pessoa, who with over seventy identities, was a troubled and sick man. The Bronte sisters used men's names to maintain their anonymity and to give themselves an advantage in getting published. They were the least strange of the bunch.

My reading of Nom de Plume gravitated toward the authors whose works I have read and I was fascinated to read the story of Georges Simenon, who was busy enough to be at least a dozen men, but was astonishingly only one. He wrote an average of four books a year throughout his life and still had time to conduct multiple affairs. Obviously time management was a special talent of his.

Patricia Highsmith only wrote one book under a pseudonym, and therefore barely qualifies to be in this book, but her story is so peculiar, unpleasant, and irresistible, that Ciuraru had to include it.

Mark Twain was not only the well-known pen name of Samuel Clemens, but was the smoother, friendlier version of the man. Clemens was grumpy, depressed, and difficult, but Mark Twain was the funny, wry, publicly acceptable persona.

What surprised me was the number of writers who not only adopted pen names, but seemed to prefer their new identities to the old ones. Simenon was a pen name, but for at least half his life, he was Simenon almost exclusively, in public and private. George Orwell was another who became his alter ego, for the most part abandoning his birth name of Eric Blair.

Until recently, most of us who are not writers or con artists didn't need to worry about whether to use a false identity. Now, quite a lot of us adopt a user name or a blog avatar. It seems like a harmless and perhaps even a sensible thing to do. After reading Nom de Plume, you may think a bit harder about the meaning of hiding behind a mask.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An interesting look at writers who use pseudonyms 2 April 2012
By James D. Crabtree - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It was hard for me to get into this book, probably because I had little interest in some of the first writers discussed, but as I read more and more I became more interested. The author does a good job of providing condensed bios on the writers she discusses, along with the various reasons they adopted other names for their writings. If you aren't interested in writers or literature it might be hard to "get into" this book... which would be a shame because it does have a lot to offer.
Ciuraru: sweet by any name 16 July 2013
By Giuseppi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am rarely thrilled by anything I read. This is both a function of having read all the good stuff, and a downright dearth of anything new worth reading. At last, I am able to report that I found my thrill, not on Blueberry Hill but in the obscure pleasures offered up by the ethereal Carmela Ciuraru in her brilliant (HarperCollins, thought so!) NOM DE PLUME: A (SECRET) HISTORY OF PSEUDONYMS. The adjective ethereal was not chose lightly. There is a photograph of Carmela on the back flap of the book cover. I am sure you would agree that hers is a face from Botticelli, a unique beauty, something deliriously ethnic in her face, and cerebral in her sweet, cynical smile.

It must be serendipitous that I should find this book within days of the breaking July, 2013 news of J.K. Rowling. Apparently she published her last novel--The Cuckoo's Calling--under the pseudonym John Galbraith. The story, of course, is probably a publisher-conceived media stunt. Each day it has built itself "legs" and the pundits & analysts are slicing & dicing as I write. It would be a great injustice to their viewers should the 24-hour news mavens not invite Carmela as a guest commentator on the issue of pseudonyms in general. The author is undoubtedly an articulate, charismatic, camera-ready treat.
I strongly advise whoever is scheduling guests to get on this right away

Her book is a nuanced analysis of various motivations behind an author's use of a pseudonym for publication. In addition to being a fascinating read, particularly for writers, NOM DE PLUME, it sets each story--and they're all there: Twain/Clemens, Blair/Orwell, Carroll/Dodgson, Dinesen/Blixen, Plath, Simenon, and Highsmith--sets each episode of literary schizophrenia in historical context. Quoting Carmela:

"At its most basic level, a pseudonym is a prank. Yet the motives that lead writers to assume an alias are infinitely complex, sometimes mysterious even to them."

The book is a gem and fun to read.
Book lived up to its promises 17 Dec. 2013
By Ruff Rider - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I felt this book covered the subject matter very well and got me interested in finding out more which is all a book can ever do
Entertaining reading! 10 Aug. 2013
By Joseph Humber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This has really good view of authors who chose to write under a pen name. Patricia HIghsmith is described as "the most wretched person you'd ever hope to meet", and you'd have to agree with that! Mostly the book is a side to these people that you won't read in their bios, and it makes them appear much more human.
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