Author Pseudonyms

So, going a little different today.  And next week, also have a little something different for everybody (possibly).

A couple of weeks ago I found a book, Cuckoo Calling by Robert Gailbraith. It was a mystery, with a main character private investigator and his temporary Girl Friday. I loved, loved, loved it. One of the best “crime” “detective” novels I’ve read in a long time. Some of you already know the twist I am about to reveal. Some of you don’t.

Galbraith is known in their major author career as the woman who created seven novels around a boy. A boy with a distinctive lightning scar on his forehead, who was prophesied to kill the big, evil baddie. Yes, Galbraith is none other than J.K. Rowling.

This got me to thinking about authors using pseudonyms. Poor Rowling, her identity got leaked right from the beginning. It’s a shame to me, thinking of all the people that probably read the book and then said they hated it. It’s an amazingly written book, but there is absolutely no level of fantastical about it. In fact, if you happened to read it, and you had a copy in which they did not put ON THE BOOK that it was J.K. Rowling, you would never guess. She wanted to do it to see if she could write something not as Rowling. She wanted to experience the way it would be if she hadn’t written Harry Potter. It even got rejected by a publisher. That would not have happened had she signed it J.K. Rowling. Also, it’s a good way to separate the two series, as the genres are nothing alike and there are absolutely no similarities between the two. So, don’t go looking for any easter eggs, there are none.

Another author who actually managed to keep his real identity a secret for TEN years is Joe Hill. Joe Hill was born Joseph Hillstrom King. For ten years, he wrote under the name Joe Hill (still does today), that was how the entire publishing world and public knew him. He wrote a graphic novel series called Locke & Key (fantastic, do yourself a favor and read them), then went on to write a short story collection called 20th Century Ghosts and a full length horror novel, Heartshaped Box. Right around this time, he began to make more public appearances. joe-hill

He looks a lot like someone else who writes horror, doesn’t he? Like, maybe this guy?

stephen-king

At that point, enough people began guessing that he came out of the pseudonym closet. He has said that he wanted to know he could be published and read on his own merit. Instead of because he was Stephen King’s son.

Stephen King himself wrote under a different name. Richard Bachmann. When he did this, it was because at that time publishers thought a writer should only publish one book a year. Stephen King wanted to publish more because he wrote more. Enough people began guessing that he was outed by the 4th or 5th book.

Historically, all three of the Bronte sisters wrote under male pseudonyms. Which, considering what some reviewers said of Wuthering Heights might have been good. It was called dark and brutal. If it had been known that a woman wrote that, during the 1800s, it’s possible Emily would have been committed to an asylum.

Joyce Carol Oates wrote under a pseudonym for a couple of books.

I can see how someone switching genres might want to write under a different name. They get devoted fan following. Could you imagine if Jodi Picoult wrote a horror novel? She would be massacred by her followers. Or if Branden Sandersen wrote a romance novel?

Weigh in on what you think in the comments below 🙂

And check out Joe Hill. If you saw the movie Horns (which there are some degrees of separation here between my authors, as Daniel Radcliffe played the main role), then you have seen a movie adaptation of one of Hill’s books.

And read Galbraith, especially if you like mystery novels.

That is all 🙂 Have a great weekend! For those of you at AWP, have a great time!

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Alice Munro Short Stories

My Top Ten book has gotten up and walked away. I don’t know who listed Alice Munro, but I swear to you she is in there!

Munro has a few different collections of stories out there. They seem to be all very long short stories, or even novellas. The three different books I looked at had 8 each. Most of the ones I read were from The Love of a Good Woman.

I buy a lot of my books used. Sometimes you find things in them that make you wonder about the prior owner. This one had an inscription, “Wendy, Title says it all. Love, RB, Christmas ’99”. I wonder where Wendy and RB went. Did they break up? Are they married still and Wendy just isn’t that sentimental while decluttering? Did she secretly hate the book and got rid of it? Did she secretly hate RB and get rid of the book? I know this has nothing to do with the actual book, but I find the random bits in used or library books fascinating. You know they have a story attached to them as well, and it’s fun to imagine what that story might be.

In this collection, which I assume is probably indicative of others of hers, Munro is stunning with her use of time jumps and character switches. She uses events that don’t seem very well connected upon first glance but worm their way under your skin anyway, leaving you with the feeling that the story wouldn’t be complete without them.

Her endings are a little disappointing to me. I’m  not sure why. I think because there’s no clear cut resolution. But, I don’t think that is it either as I read plenty of stories like that and do not usually have an issue. They all do seem very melancholy even if there is a bit of hope in them. Maybe that’s what I don’t like. Not that I need a happy ending but maybe it’s a bit of both. That they’re vague endings, just cutting off in a life, and also melancholy.

Alice Munro is from Canada. Her stories are all set pretty much in Canada, though the United States are referenced. It’s interesting, because I’m unsure if the basic personality differences I see are more related to culture or time period. A lot of her stories take place in the past, or have bits of the past stuck through them.

I have bought a second collection of Munro’s stories. I’ll be reading those as well. I’m unsure why I’ve always passed her over while looking at books. I’m sad that I did. But, this is one of the reasons I do like using the Top Ten to find books from. I’ve discovered so many great works of literature and great authors.

Excuse the brevity of this blog, I haven’t been feeling well all day. This is on top of having two sleepovers for Amelia here on consecutive nights. So, now I might go crawl into bed to lay for awhile. Everyone around me seems to be sick in some way too. My mother has a double ear infection and strep throat. That’s usually something more reserved for children, so that’s odd. Other friends have some weird influenza resembling virus. Hopefully, I have neither and am mainly having exhaustion issues.

Have a happy Easter!

 

 

Ask the Dust by John Fante

Me again. No worries, Kim will be back for the next two weeks. Anyway, on to this week.

Like many Fante aficionados, I came to the works of John Fante by a winding route. I was obsessed with the beats for a while, leading someone to clue me into Charles Bukowski. An eventual obsession with Bukowski of course led me to Fante, one of the writers he looked up to most. In fact, I’m not sure anyone would be reading Fante now if Bukowski hadn’t worked so hard to rescue Fante’s work from obscurity. Bukowski himself seemed to think Fante’s work was superior, and his advocacy for continued attention to it was perhaps the purest thing Bukowski ever did. Regardless, that all led to Fante’s Ask the Dust.

(For those following along in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, this one was 9th for Douglas Coupland, 9th for Heidi Julavits, and 4th for George Pelecanos.)

In Ask the Dust, Arturo Bandini is a young struggling writer living in a Los Angeles slum during the depression. He isn’t going anywhere fast, but neither is anyone else at that time.

One night I was sitting on the bed in my hotel room on Bunker Hill, down in the very middle of Los Angeles. It was an important night in my life because I had to make a decision about the hotel. Either I paid up or I got out: that was what the note said, the note the landlady had put under my door. A great problem, deserving acute attention. I solved it by turning out the lights and going to bed.

*****

“I just got a letter form my agent,” I told her. “My agent in New York. He says I sold another one; he doesn’t say where, but he says he’s got one sold. So don’t worry Mrs. Hargraves, don’t you fret, I’ll have it in a day or so.”

But she couldn’t believe a liar like me. It wasn’t really a lie; it was a wish, not a lie, and maybe it wasn’t even a wish, maybe it was a fact, and the only way to find out was watch the mailman, watch him closely, check his mail as he laid it on the desk in the lobby, ask him point blank if he had anything for Bandini. Bit I didn’t have to ask after six months at that hotel. He saw me coming and he always nodded yes or no before I asked: no, three million times; yes, once.

He falls in love with a waitress named Camilla. Camilla is herself in love with a co-worker who can’t stand her. Bandini struggles to stay alive, struggles with himself, and struggle with his love for Camilla as she disintegrates. He tries to rescue her, but she continues following the co-worker who hates her. Eventually, the co-worker drives her away and she walks off into the empty desert.

I left him standing there and walked out a quarter of a mile to the top of the ridge. It was so cold I pulled my coat around my throat. Under my feet the earth was churning of course dark sand and little stones, the basin of some prehistoric sea. Beyond the ridge were other ridges like it, hundreds of them stretching infinitely away. The sandy earth revealed no footstep, no sign that it had ever been trod. I walked on, struggling through the miserable soil that gave slightly and then covered itself with crumbs of grey sand.

After what seemed like two miles, I sat on a round white stone and rested. I was perspiring, and yet it was bitterly cold. The moon was dipping toward the north. It must have been after three. I had been walking steadily but slowly in a rambling fashion, still the ridges and mounds continued, stretching away without end, with only cactus and sage and ugly plants I didn’t know marking it from the dark horizon.

Personally, Ask the Dust is one of my favorite works by John Fante. It’s gritty in a way that is very different from more testosterone focused male writers. Bandini is imperfect, but in a personal way rather than an admonishing way. The sentences are tight and clean, but there is a soulful beauty that seems most important. Life is hard, but people struggle anyway. One of the ever-present themes seems to suggest the title of one of Bukowski’s books of poetry, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire. If I were ever able to choose a list of favorite books, one of Fante’s would almost have to make it. Ask the Dust might be that one.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times by Charles Dickens seems to me to be somewhat of a bleak and unhappy novel. Of course, I think it’s supposed to be. I’ve heard it mentioned recently as an example of what pure free market would result in, regardless of whether or not it would make the most sense economically. I suppose the main idea would be that whether or not a system would make the most sense economically, human life would be miserable if the only concern taken into account was economics.

I’m not taking any position on that either way, particularly since this is a book. I’m just getting that as what Dickens was asserting.

(For those following along in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, this one was 6th for Thomas Mallon and 8th for Meg Wolitzer.)

Mr. Gradgrind runs a school in Coketown devoted to facts only, training for only economic pursuits:

‘NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’

*****

‘In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!’

The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.

His children are dissatisfied by their education, craving more from life. His son ends up robbing a bank and dying in America. His daughter marries a fraud of a mill owner (he claims to have been self made from horribly difficult origins, but it is revealed that he was well raised and made his mother stay away when he became successful so he could put forth his self-made image) 30 years her senior, both at her father’s urging and to try to save her brother. She is emotionally crushed and the mill owner humbug ends up tossing her over anyway. In short, Mr. Gradgrind’s philosophy does not lead him, or those he cares about, to a good place:

‘Bitzer,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, broken down, and miserably submissive to him, ‘have you a heart?’

‘The circulation, sir,’ returned Bitzer, smiling at the oddity of the question, ‘couldn’t be carried on without one. No man, sir, acquainted with the facts established by Harvey relating to the circulation of the blood, can doubt that I have a heart.’

‘Is it accessible,’ cried Mr. Gradgrind, ‘to any compassionate influence?’

‘It is accessible to Reason, sir,’ returned the excellent young man. ‘And to nothing else.’

They stood looking at each other; Mr. Gradgrind’s face as white as the pursuer’s.

‘What motive—even what motive in reason—can you have for preventing the escape of this wretched youth,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘and crushing his miserable father? See his sister here. Pity us!’

‘Sir,’ returned Bitzer, in a very business-like and logical manner, ‘since you ask me what motive I have in reason, for taking young Mr. Tom back to Coketown, it is only reasonable to let you know. I have suspected young Mr. Tom of this bank-robbery from the first. I had had my eye upon him before that time, for I knew his ways. I have kept my observations to myself, but I have made them; and I have got ample proofs against him now, besides his running away, and besides his own confession, which I was just in time to overhear. I had the pleasure of watching your house yesterday morning, and following you here. I am going to take young Mr. Tom back to Coketown, in order to deliver him over to Mr. Bounderby. Sir, I have no doubt whatever that Mr. Bounderby will then promote me to young Mr. Tom’s situation. And I wish to have his situation, sir, for it will be a rise to me, and will do me good.’

Few people end up well. The one or two who did had a hard enough road through the book, and often managed to find meaning in life through appreciation of imagination and beauty. With only beauty and imagination, one starves. However, Dickens seems pretty strong on the position that merely not starving without beauty and imagination is at least as bad a fate as starving amidst beauty and imagination.

Hard Times is a pretty simple story for Dickens. There is none of the amazing coincidences or fantastic happenings that characterize David Copperfield or such like that. It’s merely a very simple, moving story. Perhaps a bit predictable at points, but I have to remember that I’m viewing the story through a modern lens. Regardless, Hard Times is still an enjoyable book to read…unpleasant as it is.

Not Quite So Stories by…..

DAVID S. ATKINSON.

Today, I am talking about Dave’s new book, just out. The title is “Not Quite So Stories”. This is Dave’s third book to be released. You can see me talk about the previous two, here and here. I loved Bones Buried in Dirt and The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes, as you can see in those blog posts I linked to.

Like I texted Dave on Thursday, while I did love both of those books, I LOVE Not Quite So Stories. I think it is one of the best contemporary short story collections I’ve read in a very long time.

Here are my reasons for loving these stories. Loving with a capital L of course:

  1. These stories often are about “normal” life (a housewife displaying some classic OCD symptoms getting through her highly regimented day) with something “surreal” mixed into it (the prisons in the area are overpopulated so by lottery, certain citizens have been chosen to board prisoners in their homes for a month) and the result of the blending (a square is drawn with a grease pencil on an immaculate kitchen floor and a prisoner is deposited into the square to stand there while the woman goes about her day). The stories are both important for the characters in them (who is this housewife? How does she cope with changes in her day?) and for the blend of surreal (how does she deal with a prisoner left without guard in her kitchen?). Dave has stitched together stories where you can’t even tell where the surreal has been attached into the ordinary. Dave makes it easy to climb right into the tapestry of the story that he’s woven. There is no reason to suspend any disbelief. You have none while reading one of these stories.
  2. Who wouldn’t love a story about a hotel in Europe that had to figure out a way in today’s world to set themselves apart, so did so by creating a rate in which they intentionally disrupt and disturb their patrons? You just have to read it. Anyone that has travelled to Europe, or anyone that has really just traveled anywhere that involved staying in a smaller hotel or b&b will recognize and get a kick out of the story.
  3. These stories cover my requirement for a good story. But they also leave you thinking about a certain convention or more (more as in cultural standard/law, not as in the adjective) in a way you previously didn’t. Like a spouse battle over toilet paper and the correct way to place it on the holder. Or a person picking out a plot and paying for its maintenance past their death.
  4. These stories are tight. You can tell the amount of work that went into polishing them. The care and love that went into these stories shines through.
  5. For me, some short story collections are best read cover to cover. Others are best parceling out bit by bit. Dave has hit my happy medium in which either method works great for reading them. This is why I was late in posting because I started to read and realized I wanted to experience them both ways, reading a few in a turn, then just one, then a few, then just one. These would be great for any reader you know that doesn’t have a lot of time in their day to read but wants to have something good for when they do get a few free minutes. But it’d also be good for that reader you know that devours everything that comes their way.

I am directing you now to where you can purchase Not Quite So Stories so that you can go and buy it. Now. You can buy at B&N or Amazon.

Have a great rest of your weekend!!

 

This is not a real post. This is acomment masquerading as a post.

Some of you might be remembering that I made a New Years resolution to manage my blog posts on the Thursdays they were meant to appear. Not two days later.

Well. This is me saying that my blog post on my next book will be here on Saturday. And while a little of it has to do with the fact that I forgot I was doubling up last week and this week, not all of it does. A portion of it has to do with the book I am reading.

I will leave you with that ambiguous statement. Until Saturday!

(on a completely unrelated note, I watched the first episode of Fuller House last night. It was cheesy as hell. Just a FYI.)