Mikale’s PIcks

Mikale’s Top Picks for 2016

minnie

 

Dear 2016, see ya later.

Like so many of us, I’m sort of ready for this year to be over. While in my personal and professional life I’ve met a number of invaluable people, and had more adventures than I can count, in general I think it’s fair to say that on a global level 2016 was a bit of a dud. As such, I find myself looking forward to 2017 with anxious trepidation… With all these feeeeeeelings it’s been a great year to  escape into the beautiful, fantastical world of fiction.

2016 was a great year for books,therefore allow me to  present my top five reads of the past year. I noticed a few patterns in my reading this year (apparently I’ve read A LOT of depressing literary fiction) so in an effort to be a little less insular, I’ve broken my list down into five of my  go-to’s.

Hope you enjoy, and good luck out there.

 

Best Series:  Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels brilliantfriend

I am halfway through this four-part coming-of-age series which spans the life-long friendship of two intelligent and perceptive girls growing up in the Naples region of Italy.  Although the premise may seem simple, this character-driven series is all about the complexities and nuances of  both female friendship, and more generally of women’s lives. As such, it felt like one of the more fully developed explorations of a women’s experience I’ve ever read, with feminist themes throughout. Don’t let the awful cover art fool you: I can’t recommend this one enough and have already bought copies of My Brilliant Child for a few of my favorite women this Christmas.

*Still haven’t convinced you? Read this blog post about the author’s mysterious identity! 

Best Short Story Collection: B.J. Novak’s One More Thing 

onemorethingIf I were ever to decide to track down a celebrity and woo them with every ounce of wit and charm I posses, I’m pretty sure it would be for The Office’s B.J. Novak. While he didn’t do much for me as TV star, as an author? Oh boy.

He first came into the literary spotlight with the genius children’s story  The Book With No Pictures however with his latest collection of short stories Mr. Novak has proven himself capable of captivating audiences of all ages. In short, One More Thing is hilarious and charming. I listened to the audiobook, and found myself giggling like a lunatic on the seabus listening to a fictionalized John Grisham come to grips with a monumental typo, then later tearing up over the title story of a Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket draw which threatens to unravel a family.  Although I am not normally a huge short story fan, this book captivated me.

 

Best Dystopic Why-Bother-With-Life Fiction: The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver   mandibles

Word of advice: this is not an appropriate read when feeling down or financially pinched, during election time, or when travelling long distances on public transit.  Set in the not-too-distant future, The Mandibles is the story of one upper middle class Brooklyn  family as they struggle for survival following the crash of the US dollar in favor of an international currency called the Bancor.  Shriver’s story is less fantastical and more of an examination of how delicate our economic system really is, and thus is not only plausible but illuminating. Like a modern day Grapes of Wrath, this book  takes its readers down a seemingly endless hole of hopeless despair, and doesn’t offer a breath of air until ( thankfully unlike Grapes) the end. What I liked most about this book was how much I learned about economic theory. What I disliked? Well, it wasn’t the right choice of reading material during the US election…..

 

vegetarianBest Quirky and Compelling: The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The Vegetarian is an experience. This three-part South Korean novella is  about a “previously unremarkable” young woman who decides to quit eating meat after a violent, bloody dream; a decision that sets in motion a series of events which eventually tears apart her family and social circle. Reading this book reminded me of a more guttural Murakami, with imagery so startlingly visceral and bizarre that I wish there was an accompanying graphic novel. Many of my coworkers didn’t get into this one, but the fact that I’m still thinking about this book six months later tells me it deserves to be on this list.

Overall Favourite: The Course of Love by Alain de Botton  course-of-love

I spend too much a lot of time thinking about the nature of relationships and the concept of romanticism.  As such, this book hit me right in the gut by combining both a well-written story, and the theoretical examination of a marriage.  I’ve already talked about this book so often both on this blog and to my friends that I’ll keep it short, and rather point you to this. Since first reading my library copy, I’ve purchased two copies to give out to friends, and have a few more to handout as Christmas presents.

 

-Mikale Fenton

Mikale’s Fall Picks 2016

teabooks

Short, crisp rainy days. Slow-cooked root vegetables spiced with nutmeg and coriander. Crispy home-made bread. Wool sweaters. Tea. Thick books.After a whirlwind summer, there are not enough cliched nouns to describe how much I love and relish the fall season.

This is the time of year where I typically pull-back from my social calendar, take a break from weekend adventuring and settle in for some serious nesting. It also happens to be one of the greatest seasons for literary fiction as publisher’s unleash many of their heavy-hitters for awards season and early Christmas shopping. The only issue I had choosing this fall’s picks was limiting the list to a reasonable number because so many of my favourite authors are releasing new titles, and each book looks so, so good.

And thus begins a new season of glorious hibernation….at least until ski season.

 

The Course of Love by Alain de Bottoncourse-of-love

If we have crossed paths in the past couple of weeks then you’ve probably already heard me raving about this book. It is essentially a cross between a novel and literary essay, as we follow Kristen and Rabih through the ebbs and flows of their long-term monogamous relationship. The story is told in two parallel voices: one follows the two central characters as they navigate “happily every after” and the challenges which blossom after love’s original conception– raising children, adultery, laundry etc.. The other voice  objectively analyzes each of the character’s thought patterns and actions with remarkable clarity and psychoanalytic prowess.  I truly loved this book, and look forward to reading it again–albeit next time on my own copy so that I can scribble in the margins and underline my favorite passages.

wenjack.jpgWenjack by Joseph Boyden

Nearly 50 years after his tragic death, 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack’s story may finally be getting the attention it deserves.  As noted in this recent Maclean’s article,  this year three Canadian artists are using each of their respective mediums to shed light on the Residential School experience using Chanie as their voice and focus. Boyden, alongside Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie and graphic novelist Jerry Lemire,  mobilize the incredible power of narrative and one boy’s tragic story to illuminate this horrific chapter in the history of Canada’s First Nations peoples.  In Wenjack, Boyden has created an imagined re-telling of Chanie’s last hours alive as he runs away from a North Ontario Residential School realizing too late just how far away home is.  Like all of Boyden’s novels, Wenjack is already being touted as a literary masterpiece full of haunting landscapes, imagery and characters.

By Gaslight by Steven Price bygaslight

Back in 2014 Victoria, BC authorSteven Price made literary headlines when his latest novel, By Gaslight caused a highly competitive auction at the Frankfurt Book Fair before being sold for a rumored record-breaking advance. Since then, anticipation has been building among readers everywhere to get a chance to dive into this Victorian period piece and see what all the fuss is about. At nearly 800 pages, it is a spellbinding thriller embedded with dark, poetic imagery and detailed descriptions.

 spawninggroundsThe Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

I have been a fan of Anderson-Dargatz since picking up her brilliant debut novel Cure for Death by Lightning many moons ago. Since then, the author has written numerous other beautiful novels which each with a distinct sense of place rooted in our beautiful province and the struggles which erupt as nature and man intertwine and collide. Her latest novel weaves multiple-generational stories of settlement along a fictional river in south-central B.C., not far from Kamloops. The Spawning Grounds has been receiving excellent reviews as an instant BC classic with a supernatural twist.

Nutshell by  Ian McEwan nutshell

Aside from the fact that Ian McEwan is undoubtedly one of our country’s strongest writers, his new novel sounds so fantastically bizarre that it’s hard to resist. Set within a mother’s womb, the story is told from the perspective of what McEwan describes as “a rather old fetus nostalgic about the times when he was small enough to float freely around in the womb” in this Globe and Mail interview, who bares witness to murder, deceit and all other matters of thriller intrigue. Again, impossible to resist.

Moonglow: A Novel by Michael Chabon

moonglowReading Chabon is to read magic. Ever since The Adventures of Kavalier and ClayI have been a loyal Chabon-ist, and felt that his novels sparkle with an electric sense of playful history. In his latest book, Chabon blurs the lines between fiction, memoir and biography as he tells the story of his grandfather, whose life as an engineer, veteran, and felon offers an entree into themes of heroism and imagination.  Although the author tends to obsess over detailed side plots, such as the craft of comic making in the 1940’s in Adventures, and has at times been accused of losing track of the central story, I find these tangents  fascinating.

 

Happy nesting!

-Mikale

Funny Women

comedycellar

I love comedy. Whether via online videos, podcasts, or attending weekly har-har rituals like Vancouver’s Sunday Service , I’m an addict for a good laugh. In particular however, I’m hooked on funny women.

I may be biased, but there is something deeply refreshing about hearing a brilliant modern woman speak frankly about all the experiences, taboos, and general double standards that come packaged with a set of ovaries with refreshing,  hilarious and brutal candidness. Thankfully, these days  it seems as though female comedians are getting more of the attention and praise they deserve, and there is therefore a plethora of performers and formats to choose from.

Here I present a list of a few funny women and their funny books. Most are available from the library in print, but as the resident audio-book evangelist allow me to spread the gospel and sing it from the hills—it is one thing to watch one of your favorite comedians on YouTube, but to spend hours listening to them reading their own memoirs is a whole other experience. Not only do you get a chance to hear the author perform impressions, crack-up at their own jokes, or sometimes tear up over an old memory, many authors insert little aside commentaries for the exclusive pleasure of audio listeners.

 

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer amyschumer

Unless you’ve been living under a pop-culture rock for the past few years, then you have also had the pleasure of hearing or seeing Amy Schumer perform. Aside from being a critically-praised stand-up comedian, she wrote and starred in last year’s film Trainwreck, and has been featured on numerous TV shows and films. Her new book shares hilarious, and often touching stories from her life in her characteristic unflinchingly candid style.

Not sold yet? Check out this hilarious excerpt from Vogue magazine.  

Not That Kind of Girl; A Young Woman Tell You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham  dunham

Lena Dunham is one of those young women who are so accomplished at such a young age that you almost want to hate them…… except that her special brand of self-defecating humour and brazen attitude make it extremely hard to do so. In her first memoir, Dunham recounts stories from her childhood, sex life, and experiences navigating the milieu of everything in between.

 

Notaro

I’m Just a Person  by Tig Notaro

I’ve already talked about this one before, but I really really love Tig Notaro so here we go again.  Her new book talks about a span of only four months in 2012 where Notaro was hospitalized for a debilitating intestinal disease called C. diff, her mother unexpectedly died, she went through a breakup, and then she was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. She then took her grief onstage to become one of the most intimate, and startling stand-ups out there today. For more information on her story, and the way her comedy has changed since that fateful period of time, I highly recommend checking out this great interview she recently gave with The Guardian. 

Bossypants by Tina Fey bossypants

What I liked most about listening to Bossypants (aside from her hilarious bonus audio commentary) was learning  more about her process breaking into the comedy scene in the 90’s and 2000’s, working at SNL, and the struggles she encountered as a woman in the field. Fey is classy, clever and funny as hell. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend it.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

kaling Whenever I read Kaling’s work I feel as though I’m having a glass of wine with an old friend and giggling over the absurdities of our lives. Admittedly I haven’t had the chance to read Kaling’s newest book, however I loved her first collection of essays Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? , and the audio version of Why Not Me? features guest appearances by other Office legends like B.J. Novak–so I have faith.

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Yes Please! By Amy Poehler 

The Bedwetter;  Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Seriously–I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres

Are You There Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea. By Chelsea Handler

 

-Mikale Fenton

 

Celebrating British Columbia Books!

quadraIn honor of Monday’s upcoming BC day, we thought it was high time to highlight a few of our province’s literary treasures.  British Columbia is blessed to have a plethora of literary talent, many of whom root their stories in the places and regions they know best: the vast and varied British Columbia landscape. Below is a collection of both contemporary and classic BC-saturated books to keep you company while enjoying the beautiful long weekend ahead!

Happy reading!

New Arrivals

A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World by Susan Musgrave  tastehaida

This is a beaaaaautiful, hilarious, and fascinating collection of photographs, stories, and recipes that reflect BC’s wild West Coast. The first time I picked this book up at the library I knew that one round of check-outs was not going to be enough so I immediately purchased my own copy.

As proprietor of Copper Beech House, an infamous Haida Gwaii bed and breakfast,  writer and poet Susan Musgrave unveils her first cookbook which balances humour and wit to illuminate cooking and living on Haida Gwaii to life with stories gathered over decades.

 

The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz spawninggrounds

Best known for her gorgeous bestselling novel, The Cure for Death by Lightning and , A Recipe for Bees, Salmon Arm’s very own Gail Anderson-Dargatz has a new novel coming out this fall examines the cultural, and physical geography of the central B.C.’s Thompson-Shuswap region.

 

thien

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien 

As mentioned by Patricia in her last post, Vancouver born Madeline Thein’s newest book is already generating quite a bit of critical attention and was recently nominated for the Man Booker Prize Longlist is an international saga which stretches from 1940’s China to present-day Vancouver.

 

 Bit Rot by Douglas Coupland bitrot

From Coal Harbour’s “Digital Orca”, to City of Glassa literary and visual ode to our fair city, Douglas Coupland is an undeniable Vancouver icon. In his newest book, Bit Rot Coupland mixes short fiction  with essays to explore the ways humanity tries to make sense of our shifting consciousness.  (From the publisher)

Classic Reads

curveoftimeThe Curve of Time by Wylie Blanchet

Wylie Blanchet is a legend, and The Curve of Time is a testament to her bravery and independent spirit. Following the death of her husband, she explored BC’s often rugged a central coast alone with her five children summer after summer in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Her stories are incredible, albeit at times a little problematic when read from the perspective of a modern reader. That being said, if you haven’t already done so, I really can’t recommend this book enough. Did I mention that she literally died at her type writer? This woman, I tell ya.

 

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson  monkeybeach

A true BC classic, since it’s orginal publication, Monkey Beach has become a fortified piece of the BC literary cannon. “Set in the Kitimaat area, Monkey Beach is a truly beautiful novel filled with details of Haisla culture and wildlife surrounding Kitimaat. It “combines both joy and tragedy in a harrowing yet restrained story of grief and survival, and of a family on the edge of heartbreak” (from the publisher).

 

goldenspruceThe Golden Spruce by John Valliant

What started as a feature article for The New Yorker soon evolved into this epic examination of the tragic loss of one of British Columbia’s most infamous natural wonders, the mysterious disappearance of the man who destroyed it, and a look into life on Haida Gwaii and the global forces which shape it. If you haven’t read this book, do it. Valliant is a master storyteller. He successfully lures readers in with compelling storytelling and pushes them to consider their own complicity in a modern world that often depends on the destruction of nature for survival.

 

Enjoy yourself out there this weekend!

-Mikale

Wedding Season Survival Guide

cheers

Up until recently I didn’t really realize that “wedding season” is a thing. Then my late-twenties arrived. Gone are the halcyon days of impromptu weekend summer getaways in favor of  a regimented event schedule filled with uncomfortable footwear,  bubbly, and hopefully some earnest romance.

Some people claim to love wedding season, others claim to hate it–although I suspect most find themselves somewhere in the middle.  Regardless of where you stand in the nuptial spectrum, as Jen Doll, author of   Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest states in her article for Flavour Wire , “weddings make for great scenes, unforgettable moments of high expectation, emotion, and drama — in fiction as well as in nonfiction.” Whether you’re tying the knot, or deciding on how to fill that plus-one RSVP, consider this a survival guide full of practical tips, and literary inspiration.

Tips and Tricks

The Worst-case Scenario Survival Handbook worstcasewedding

by Joshua Piven

Not to be a pessimist, but really who knew that so much could go wrong on such a happy day? This  step-by-step instruction guide is designed to help the bride and groom–and everyone else–survive the nuptials, from trimming the guest list all the way through to re-purposing unwanted presents. This manual teaches how to charm nightmare in-laws,  combat floral allergies, stop a disastrous toast, and enjoy the day.

Pocket Guide to Wedding Speeches & Toasts by Darren Noel pocketguidewedding.jpg

I’m one of those people who thinks that they’re skilled at public-speaking, until of course I actually step up to the mic.  Thankfully, the library has several copies of how-to manuals and guides to help sweaty-palmed orators float from our seats to the podium and back with some semblance of poise, and hopefully at least one laugh (or tear)  from the audience.

 

weddingetiquette.jpgThe Everything Wedding Etiquette Book; From Invites to Thank-you Notes–all You Need to Handle Even the Stickiest Situations With Ease by Holly Lefevre 

I think that one of the biggest sources of wedding-related anxiety results from the complex, awkward, and often contentious interrelationships that develop when two independent people and their associated families, friends, and distant cousins are brought together under one roof, fed a pile of alcohol and told to get along.   Alas, this guide is designed to help wedding planners navigate the art of seating charts, thank-you cards, and tricky in-law dramas with ease.

 

Literature for for the hopeless romantics….

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead seatingarrangements.jpg

A romantic comedy set over three days of a WASP-y wedding on an island off the coast of New England, this novel allows the complex interrelationships to fully blossom into hilarious, preppy depravity.  A social satire which explores themes of status, family, love and its obligations, this novel is a perfect precursor to the upcoming wedding in your calendar.

prideandpredPride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 

From the classic opening line, “it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”,  Austen sets the tone for this classic novel which cements advantageous marriage as a fundamental social value, and the central ambition for its main characters. Even a cynic like me was swept up in  this genteel turn-of-the-century story.

 

The Princess Bride   By William Goldman princessbride

“Mawidge, it’s a dweam wiffin a dweam” Enough said.

(P.S. The audiobook version narrated by Rob Reiner is particularly hilarious)

 

Literature for the wedding-tolerant….

janeeyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Sure, they may get married in the end…however, with Mr. Briggs’ interruption “I declare the existence of an impediment,” readers everywhere were forever doomed to wince upon hearing the words “speak now or forever hold your peace”.  This broody classic is arguably the ultimate botched-wedding.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens  greatexpec

As Jen Doll states,  “is there a more tragic and memorable jilted at the altar figure than poor, dear Miss Havisham? ” Twenty minutes before her wedding is set commence, she gets a letter from her betrothed,  Compeyson, who has defrauded her and won’t be showing up. Thus begins the rest of her life, frozen in time as a hermit in her spoiling mansion, wearing her wedding dress and one shoe, and her wedding cake left uneaten on the table.  Yeesh.

 

 

If all else fails, there’s also this awesome Wedding Season Bingo game card  from Swimmingly which is worth a good giggle.

wedding season bingo

(image source: http://www.swimmingly.com/relationships/weddings/keep-track-of-all-the-hottest-wedding-trends-with-summer-wedding-bingo/)

 

Cheers!

-Mikale

Mikale’s Summer Picks

It seems fitting that one of the last tasks I’ve left myself to do before going on vacation is to assemble my top literary picks for summer.  Let me begin by stating that I take my summer reads very seriously, in the way that under no circumstances should summer reads be too serious. While I always love a good dystopic-fantasy,  as stated in this hilarious New Yorker “think-piece” from 2014, “my ideal summer novel is delicately balanced on the edge of frivolity….The drama should feel VERY real to the characters but be very silly in contrast to anything you read in the world-news section of the New York Times.” In those dark, brooding rainy West Coast winter nights I love to curl up and be challenged by a serious piece of literature, but…. poolside? Not so much.

And so, here we go… Summer 2016.

I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro Notaro

Ok so maybe this one is going to be a bit too dark for my aforementioned “Summer Reads Rules of Conduct”, however I recently heard Tig Notaro tell a story about repeatedly meeting 80’s pop star Taylor Dayne on This American Life  and found myself laughing so hard on my run that I had to pull over to breathe properly, so I have faith there will be balance.

Her new book talks about a span of only four months in 2012 where Notaro was hospitalized for a debilitating intestinal disease called C. diff, her mother unexpectedly died, she went through a breakup, and then she was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. She then took her grief onstage to become one of the most intimate, and startling stand-ups out there today. For more information on her story, and the way her comedy has changed since that fateful period of time, I highly recommend checking out this great interview she recently gave with The Guardian. 

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

A beach-read of a different sort of variety…..Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Dennis- Benn uncovers a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. Set at an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise.

Heroes From The Frontier by David Eggers heroeofthefrontier

I’m an unabashed Dave Eggers fan and will basically read anything he publishes. While his storylines may not always be as tight as they could be, Egger’s breezy writing-style is both punchy and compelling, and his novels (The Circle, and A Hologram for the King) consistently tackle complex ideas like online privacy and economic collapse in an accesible, and entertaining fashion . His new novel is about a mother and her two young children on a journey through an Alaskan wilderness that is plagued by wildfires and a uniquely American madness.

 

mandiblesThe Mandibles; A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

Set in a not-too distant future Brooklyn, The Mandibles breaks down the struggles of one upper-middle class family as they cope with extreme water and food shortage, and general societal meltdown. Blending satire and parable with today’s headlines, Shriver creates a terrifying look into the not to distance future.

 

The Girls by Emma Cline girls.jpg

In this remarkable debut novel , the obsession with 1960s California cults comes to horrifying and electrifying life. While cults usually orbit charismatic men, Cline’s protagonist is teenage Evie, whose attraction to impossible-to-resist cool girls leads to her fate. An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong.
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modernloversModern Lovers by Emma Straub

For fans of The Vacationers, comes Straub’s latest hit which promises to deliver sympathetic, well-developed characters and a story filled with humour and heartache.

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.

Happy reading!

 

-Mikale

 

 

 

 

What is in a name?

 

I’m currently reading the best-selling Neapolitan book series written by the elusive and mysterious writer Elena Ferrante—the pseudonymous Italian novelist whose true identity is not publicly known, yet was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.  The further I delve into Ferrante’s world, the more I want to know about its creator and yet I, along with millions of her readers, are left to wonder—a fact which I  find to be simultaneously enormously frustrating and intriguing.my-brilliant-friend-cover

I keep asking myself why I care. Why does it matter who authored these words? As Ferrante herself said in this rare interview with Vanity Fair, ” My books increasingly demonstrate their independence, so I see no reason to change my position…..for those who love literature, the books are enough.”

I think my itching curiosity stems from the familiar intimacy of Ferrante’s writing. One of the reasons the Neapolitan series is so remarkable is because of the ruthless and brutally authentic way it depicts the challenging “terra incognita” of female friendship. Ferrante’s writing is  emotionally honest and so true-to-life that it could only be at least partially autobiographical (as confirmed in that same Vanity Fair interview). As fellow novelist Lauren Groff said,  “It’s odd, though, to imagine that a photo or biography could tell us more about Ferrante than her astonishing books.”

Is this why an author’s identity feels important to some readers…because we want to put a face to our protagonist’s voice? Or are we simply intrigued by those who are willing to toll-away and pour themselves into their work, yet insistently shirk away from the seductive pull of praise, acclaim and fame.

Of course Ferrante is by no means the first author to publish their works using a pen name. She is, however, one of the few to do so with such success—both in terms of book sales and continued anonymity. In celebration of this literary-feat, I present a shortlist of several other favorite writers who, despite their best efforts, have been “outed” for publishing their works as someone else.

 

(Click the hyperlink attached to each name to access NVCL’s collected works from each pseudonymous author)

Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling

cuckooscallingThanks to the Harry Potter franchise  J.K. Rowling has become a household name,  however her first book aimed at an adult audience,  Casual Vacancy, wasn’t well-received  by readers and critics alike. In an effort to test her skills and release some of the pressure associated with being one of the world’s most famous authors, Rowling submitted The Cuckoos Calling, book one of the Cormorant Strike mystery series,  to publishers using the pen name Robert Galbraith. The book was accepted, however it wasn’t long before Rowling was outed as the real author and the book became an international best-seller.

Richard Bachman  a.k.a. Steven King bachmanking

 

Back in the 70’s, Stephen King’s publishers were worried that he was producing too much content too quickly and that it would eventually affect his reputation and subsequent book sales. Rather than slow down, the prolific author decided to begin publishing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman as a test to see if his success was earned by merit, or blind luck. It wasn’t long however before readers began to notice similarities in both authors writing style and King had to fess up.

 

Isak Dinensen a.k.a. Karen Blixen

outofafricaFor some authors, pseudonyms provide an opportunity is way to escape their famous reputations and write freely,  historically however many women resorted to assuming a man’s name in order to have their work taken seriously. Danish writer Karen Blixen – the author of the classic memoir Out of Africa used a number of pen names throughout her career. Blixen’s most well-known male pseudonym was Isak Dinesen. Other examples of female authors who chose male pen names include the Bronte sisters and Louisa May Alcott.

Craig Davidson aka Nick Cutter The+Deep

Referred to as “the worst-kept secret in Canadian publishing “, award-winning short story writer and novelist Craig Davidson began using the pen name Nick Cutter a few years ago as a tool to be able publish horror novels without delineating reader’s attentions from Davidson’s more “serious prose. Apparently it worked. According to this Globe and Mail article, Davidson’s Giller-nominated Cataract City lasted one week on The Globe and Mail’s bestseller list in November, 2013, however Cutter’s The Troop,  enjoyed 11 weeks on the list, spanning the spring and summer of last year. As stated by J.R. McCovney,  “although it grinds against entrenched notions of literature as a cradle of authenticity – a home for the lyrical, the personal, the truth – the notion that one human can contain different writers has long been a way to facilitate creativity or tackle the challenges of publication.”

So my question is, have you ever thought about publishing your writing using a pen name? And if so, why? What would it be?

Happy sleuthing everyone!

-Mikale