Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Trailer Park Tuesday: Nom de Plume by Carmela Ciuraru

Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.  Unless their last name is Grisham or King, authors will probably never see their trailers on the big screen at the local cineplex.  And that's a shame because a lot of hard work goes into producing these short marriages between book and video.  So, if you like what you see, please spread the word and help these videos go viral.

The trailer for Carmela Ciuraru's Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms takes no prisoners. It zips along at a sprightly pace with 100-year-old graphics supporting 21st-century PowerPoint whirligig effects while jazzy Dixieland trumpets and banjo punctuate the soundtrack.  It all makes Ciuraru's group biography of pseudonymous authors sound like so much....fun.  Which it is.  I've got a paperback copy of Nom de Plume (out at the end of this month from Harper Perennial) tucked under my elbow as I type this and I can assure you Ciuraru's style is anything but stodgy.  Joyce Carol Oates praised the book by saying, "Nom de Plume is a fascinating collection of stories--populated by individuals whose 'doubleness' is so distinct that they acquire secondary personalities, and, in some notable cases, multiple personalities."  Each chapter of the book is an encapsulated life of an author who wrote behind the mask of an alias.  Ciuraru dives right in from the first sentence of each mini-biography.  Here she is on a renowned Portuguese poet, for instance: "You will never get to the bottom of Fernando Pessoa.  There are too many of him."  The chapters are preceded by a page with a single statement about the author we're about to meet.  Some of my favorites: "She had a big nose and the face of a withered cabbage" (George Eliot/Marian Evans), "He slept with prostitutes, hated bad smells, and dressed like a tramp" (George Orwell/Eric Blair), and "She found sexual satisfaction in picking her nose" (Sylvia Plath/Victoria Lucas). Oh, what secrets we keep tucked in the pockets of our personalities!

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