Tuesday, January 27, 2015


There have been scores of songs about literature—from “Paperback Writer” to “Tom Sawyer” to “Holden Caulfield” (by a Newfoundland punk band named Mopey Mumble-Mouse). There have been albums, too. The Steve Miller Band’s third album, for instance, was called “Brave New World.” But the most profound paean to authorship is certainly naming your band after a book. So this installment of the Why Not 100 focuses on 56 of them.

On this list you’ll find bands named after book titles (from Steppenwolf to Supertramp), characters (from Dorian Gray to the Dead Milkmen), and various other literary references (from Mott the Hoople to the Ministry of Love). You’ll find Faulkner and Fitzgerald, Hesse and Huxley, Steinbeck and Salinger, Dahl and Dickens.

And we’re not even including Bob Dylan (Bobby Zimmerman chose the name in reference to poet Dylan Thomas) and Moby (electric dance music pioneer James Hall got his nickname from being a distant descendant of Herman Melville). Enjoy the bands:


1. The Velvet Underground
Michael Leigh’s early ‘60s book about a secret sexual subculture became the name of the band co-founded by Lou Reed, managed by Andy Warhol, and eventually elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
2. Steppenwolf
The band that had late ’60s hits like “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” took its name from the title of a book by German-Swiss author Herman Hesse. Before then, they called themselves The Sparrows.
3. Supertramp
They took their name from a 1908 book called The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp by Welsh writer W.H. Davies. They reached superstardom with their 1979 Breakfast in America album, which included “The Logical Song” and “Goodbye Stranger.”

Saturday, January 17, 2015


There was a boy in the early 18th century who was a bit of a precocious writer. As a 16-year-old, he attempted to write for The New-England Courant, one of the first newspapers in the American colonies. The Courant had been founded by his older brother, who rebuffed his younger sibling’s attempts at publication. So the teenager adopted an alias. Under the name Silence Dogood, ostensibly a middle-aged widow, he wrote a series of well-received, tongue-in-cheek letters to the newspaper—essays, really. It was his first taste of some measure of fame, albeit under a pseudonym.

A quarter-century later, by which time he had become a famous author, he hoped to draw attention to the injustice of blaming women only when children were born out of wedlock (something with which he was well familiar). So he dressed in female literary garb once more, publishing “The Speech of Polly Baker” in an issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine. He also wrote letters to The American Weekly under the names Caelia Shortface and Martha Careful, as well as a gossip column under the name Alice Addertongue.

So what was his real name? Benjamin Franklin. January 17th is his birthday. Happy birthday, Silence Dogood.

Ben Franklin was not the last famous writer to opt for a literary disguise, of course. Either they later became famous using their real names or they were already famous before adopting a pseudonym. 

Here’s a list of two-dozen-plus-one and their less-famous pen names: 

1. Ben Franklin (Silence Dogood, Polly Baker, Alice Addertongue, Caelia Shortface, and Martha Careful)

2. Charles Dickens (Boz)

3. Stephen King (Richard Bachman)

4. J.K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith, Newt Scamander and Kennilworthy Whisp)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015



One of the goals of the Why Not 100 is to clue literature lovers in to facts they might have missed. Sort of the way Sherlock Holmes did. Sure, you’re probably aware that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books were told from Dr. John Watson’s point of view, that Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street, and even that Holmes was addicted to cocaine and morphine. But did you know...
  1. He was this close to being called “Sherringford” Holmes.
  2. Dr. Watson was originally named “Ormand Sacker.”
  3. While Holmes and Watson are generally considered to be—and portrayed—as middle-aged, they were actually in their late twenties for most of their adventures.
  4. Among Conan Doyle’s inspirations for the character was Edgar Allen Poe’s fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin.
  5. Not once in any of the Conan Doyle stories did Holmes ever utter the exact words “Elementary, my dear Watson.” He said, “Elementary.” And he said, “My dear Watson.” But never together.