Nom de Plume by Carmela Ciuraru


16 Critic Reviews

A collection of original literary biographies connected by a single circumstance that does not by itself suffice to pull them together.


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 exposé, part literary history, and an absorbing psychological meditation on identity and creativity.


About Carmela Ciuraru

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Carmela Ciuraru is not a pseudonym. Her anthologies include First Loves: Poets Introduce the Essential Poems That Captivated and Inspired Them and Solitude Poems. She is a graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Elle Decor, ARTNews, O, The Oprah Magazine, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn.
Published June 14, 2011 by HarperCollins e-books. 373 pages
Genres: Other, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Nom de Plume
All: 16 | Positive: 15 | Negative: 1


Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Apr 15 2011

A collection of original literary biographies connected by a single circumstance that does not by itself suffice to pull them together.

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Wall Street Journal

Below average
Reviewed by STEVEN HAYWARD on Jun 22 2011

The result is a history that often presents the pseudonym as symptom or retreat, a haven for the damaged or pathologically insecure.

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LA Times

Reviewed by Amy Wallen on Aug 08 2011

Ciuraru builds each history as its own personal story, then builds the literary charm and genius behind the pathos...creating a history of pseudonyms that becomes a tale of literary genius all its own.

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The Washington Post

Reviewed by Jonathan Yardley on Jun 17 2011

“Nom de Plume” is an interesting book, but by its very nature an odd one. After laying the groundwork in her thoughtful introduction,

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The Seattle Times

Reviewed by Emily Fredrix on Jun 18 2011

The book is as much a meditation on the creative process as it is a tell-all about names and the intrigue, branding or mind games that created them.

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The Millions

Reviewed by LYDIA KIESLING on Jun 20 2011

I admire Ciuraru’s effort–I admire the considerable research she patently did, I admire her feeling for a great quotation, and I am glad that she was able to sell this idea and get the book published.

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Book Forum

Reviewed by Phoebe Connelly on Jun 20 2011

Pseudonyms are the subject of Carmela Ciuraru's engrossing, well-paced literary history Nom de Plume.

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Columbia Magazine

Reviewed by Columbia Magazine

chronicles the lives of 16 notable authors who wrote under false names, and recounts the lives of the pseudonyms themselves.

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Shelf Love

Reviewed by Teresa on Jul 12 2012

On the whole, however, I found this to be an engaging and entertaining read.

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Rebecca Reads

Reviewed by Rebecca Reid on Jun 21 2011

...was an enjoyable collection of miniature biographies about various literary figures throughout more recent history that have written and published under pseudonyms.

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Boston Bibliophile

Reviewed by Marie on Sep 05 2011

A collection of literary biographies about fiction writers from the 19th century to the 1970s who have used pseudonyms, Nom de Plume is a treat for lovers of literature.

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The Novel World

Reviewed by Jen on Jun 11 2012

I think this book is great for English majors in college. Ciuraru provides interesting insight not only into the author’s lives but also their works and the contextual relevance...

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Booking Through 365

Reviewed by Emma on Jul 09 2012

This book on literary pseudonyms has become one of my favourite reads of the year. In fact, I may have stayed up late reading it on more than one occasion.

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In the Hammock Book Reviews

Reviewed by Carrie on Jul 23 2012

The author has a great way of getting the reader's attention at the start of each chapter with a statement about one of the eccentricities of the upcoming writer.

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A Penny and Change

Reviewed by Penny Leisch on Jun 15 2012

The author doesn’t let me down either. She’s adept at finding facts and translating historical information about the secretive lives of the authors, without excessive melodrama.

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Reviewed by David Abrams on May 22 2012

Each chapter of the book is an encapsulated life of an author who wrote behind the mask of an alias.

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