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Carmela Ciuraru's 6 favorite pseudonymous books
The author of a book about famous assumed names in literature suggests works secretly written by Sylvia Plath and Patricia Highsmith
 
Carmela Ciuraru's most recent book explores authors' pseudonyms throughout history, and across cultures.
Carmela Ciuraru's most recent book explores authors' pseudonyms throughout history, and across cultures.
Pieter M. van Hattem

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (Harcourt, $14). Orwell’s literary debut, chronicling the lives of the working poor, is considered a masterpiece of reportage. But it was initially rejected by two publishers, and the author (whose real name was Eric Blair) admitted that he was not proud of it. Thus the persona "George Orwell" was born.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (Norton, $14). Though she’d achieved success with her first novel, Highsmith chose to publish her second book under the name Claire Morgan. She worried that the novel — a positive and rather explicit story of lesbian love — would cause her to be pigeonholed as a lesbian writer. And that the story might offend her 84-year-old grandmother.

Always Astonished by Fernando Pessoa (City Lights, $13). In this collection of essays and sketches, the Portuguese poet — who cultivated more than 70 authorial identities — contemplates Shakespeare, the "uselessness" of criticism, and his own multiple writing selves, which he called his "heteronyms."

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Harper, $14). Due to its highly autobiographical content, this harrowing novel was written under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. It details the breakdown of a young woman, and offers a vicious portrait of the woman’s mother — unmistakably Plath’s own.

Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary (New Directions, $22). This enchanting 1961 "memoir" reads like a coming-of-age novel and probably contains a good deal of fiction. Gary (born Roman Kacew) was a relentless self-mythologizer, and indulged throughout his life in multiple layers of authorial disguise.

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr. (Tachyon, $16). Eighteen science-fiction stories compose the only collection by Tiptree that remains in print. Considering that Tiptree was in fact Alice Sheldon, a former Chicago debutante, it’s no wonder that "his" subversive themes explore gender roles and power. Sheldon passed as a successful male writer for more than a decade, but after her identity was exposed, she never recovered. She committed suicide in 1987.

Author Carmela Ciuraru's latest book, Nom de Plume, explores the stories behind famous literary pseudonyms

 

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