|"James Tiptree, Jr."|
“Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called ‘feminine’ — we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise.”And as reported by Charlotte's friend and future biographer Elizabeth Gaskell, “her chief reason for maintaining an incognito is the fear that if she relinquished it, strength and courage would leave her, and she should ever after shrink from writing the plain truth.”
|Alice B. Sheldon/James Tiptree, Jr. (1915–1987). This NPR piece on Tiptree has an excerpt from a biography of her by Julie Phillips. (Love the touch of "Jr."!)|
|With more than 70 pseudonyms, Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa might have gone a bit overboard. His motto: “To pretend is to know oneself.”|
I thought this summation of the book by Amy Wallen in the Los Angeles Times was insightful:
In Ciuraru's disclosure of their psychologies, their family lives, their traumas and thrills, we get a little bit detective story, a little bit gossip and an argosy of insight into more than 16 reasons for wanting to publish under another name. One by one, Ciuraru's thoroughly researched coterie is presented. She builds up to the history of each author's books written with and without pseudonyms, then follows their lives after publication into the toils, tribulations and triumphs through their use of an alter ego… Ciuraru's prose is reminiscent of that of science writer Mary Roach, whose wit and solid research are used to give us the history of cadavers, the afterlife and sex. Ciuraru has a wry sense of humor that lightly steps in at just the right moments: " 'The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt,' Sylvia Plath once wrote, but when it did creep in, she pounded it like a Whac-a-Mole until her achieving self could surface once again.'"