Authors throughout time have used pen names to keep their identity a secret or to make the reader’s focus more on the book and less on the person writing it. For example, Mark Twain, a well-known American writer, was born Samuel Clemens. He changed his name after working on a steamboat along the Mississippi River in Missouri. He actually gets the name ‘Mark Twain’ from a type of measurement that was used on the boats called a ‘twain’, which people would mark, hence his new name. His life on the river was very important to him and this is evident through his name change. Another reason writers change their names is because they are actually women looking to make it in the literary world. George Eliot, the author of Middlemarch, was actually Mary Ann Evans, born in England during the 1800s, who wanted people to take her work seriously. During that time, men had all the power and authority so it was only logical to take the name of a man. J.K. Rowling, the famous author of the Harry Potter series used the initial of her name Joanne, and made up the ‘K’ as she did not have a middle name. This was all done because she believed boys at the time wouldn’t want to read a book about magic written by a woman. Authors also use pen names to heighten the story they are telling and to make it more believable. I Am Number Four, a science-fiction novel about aliens (that description doesn’t do it justice, it is actually a very intriguing story) is written by Pittacus Lore. In the story, Lore is the ruler of the place where the aliens originate, Lorien. James Frey and Jobie Hughes are the actual authors, but props to them for incorporating more of the book to be apart of the reader’s imagination and the story overall. I also used to read a book as a child called The Name of This Book is Secret, written by Pseudonymous Bosch. The actual author of the series is still disputed. Dictionary.com defines ‘pseudonymous’ as “bearing a false or fictitious name.” Relates pretty well, doesn’t it? ‘Bosch’ may come from the artist Hieronymous Bosch, who is actually one of my favorites. Overall, authors use pen names for all sorts of reasons and some of those reasons can be quite interesting once you get to researching them.
Ghost stories are meant to thrill and entertain. They are meant to put the reader in suspense and send chills up their spine. But, if you’re like me, ghost stories or the movies they play ona TV around Halloween give you a chuckle and don’t make you want to walk down a dark hallway with your entire group of friends, just to be safe. I have recently been reading Modern Ghost Stories by noted women writers, edited by Richard Dalby. In doing so, I found a story that actually left me feeling a little jumpy. The story was called No. 17 by E. Nesbit. It starts out with a few men sitting around talking about mysterious things that have happened to people they know. One man tells a story that is far from thrilling and after, a man that is described to have a rabbit-like face speaks up and says he has a story to tell, but he doesn’t like telling it to people who don’t believe in ghosts. Intrigued, the men say they do believe in ghosts and press him to tell the tale. The man was once staying in a hotel where room number 17 was said to be haunted. Everyone who stays in the room is found with his throat cut, dead, with no explanation as to why. The man, feeling a little superstitious, decides to switch rooms, to room number 16, just to be on the safe side. Early in the morning, there is a knock on the door, someone saying they are the chambermaid bringing things that he could shave with (I’m guessing this was custom at the time, as this particular story was written in 1910). He starts to shave when he senses movement, and turns to see a gruesome-looking man sitting on the bed. The man has a slit throat. The story-teller recollects himself and discovers no one is in the room. Realizing this was actually room number 17, that the placards were switched, the man comes to find out that the other men that died in that room perished by slitting their throats with the razors provided after seeing the horrid man. The people listening to the story later question him as to why he didn’t cut his throat. He tells them he shaves with a safety razor. Then he says something that confuses me- he has actually reserved the same room again, as he does every time he visits.
What I don’t understand about this story is the last piece. When you know what goes on in this room and how many men have had their fate sealed in it, why would you go to great lengths and risk your life to reserve it? Oh well, I always do love a story that leaves me with questions, gives me a reason to go back and reread it to try and understand. More stories are to come, so look out!