Cover: On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives, from Harvard University PressCover: On Not Being Someone Else in HARDCOVER

On Not Being Someone Else

Tales of Our Unled Lives

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Product Details


$29.95 • £23.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674238084

Publication Date: 06/09/2020

Academic Trade

232 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

3 illus.


An expertly curated tour of regret and envy in literature… By approaching regret and envy from multiple angles, Miller’s insightful and moving book—both in his own discussion and in the tales he recounts—gently nudges us toward consolation. Yes, we might live only one among countless possible lives, and those we haven’t lived will haunt us. But, as Miller notes in conclusion, at least we have had the chance to live the one life that has been given to us.The Wall Street Journal

Excellent… For Miller, imagining who we might have been or once were, or who we might yet become, is anything but frivolous… In spirited and incisive close readings of texts like Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken,’ Carl Dennis’s ‘The God Who Loves You,’ and Ian McEwan’s Atonement (among many, many others), Miller pursues this slippery, elusive meaning and the many questions it leaves unanswered… The idea of unled lives could hardly be more resonant… How many literary scholars today write so engagingly?—Morten Høi Jensen, Commonweal

A strong, pleasing work that is as much about living as about reading and writing.Kirkus Reviews

Wonderfully lucid about murky questions of what might have been… Both literature specialists, who will appreciate Miller’s breadth of examples, and general readers, who can enjoy the universal topics he explores, will find much food for thought in this pleasant work.Publishers Weekly

Miller is charming company, both humanly and intellectually. He is onto something: the theme of unled lives, and the fascinating idea that fiction intensifies the sense of provisionality that attends all lives. An extremely attractive book.—James Wood

On Not Being Someone Else reminds us just how alluring and confounding our singularity is and how, through literature, we make sense of being ourselves. To be someone—to be anyone—is about being someone and not being someone else. Miller’s amused and inspired book is utterly compelling about this, and about so much else.—Adam Phillips, author of One Way and Another: New and Selected Essays

What a provocative book! It is interesting and alive on every page, and entertaining the idea of a different life is a profound experience.—Michael Gorra, author of Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece

Miller’s book is a poetics of the unled life, a poetics of ‘what if…’ Through poems, novels, films, philosophy, and psychoanalysis—the texts of our modernity—Miller leads us to profound questions about the imagination, the self and identity, history, marriage, children, regret, atonement, storytelling, and the ethics of choice. Above all, he makes us feel the pressure and immediacy of possibility, the road not taken.—Isobel Armstrong, author of Novel Politics: Democratic Imaginations in Nineteenth-Century Fiction

A one-of-a-kind book that is at once literary and personal, drawing us into a world of reflection about lives we have not lived. Why do we return to the past to understand who we are now? This is a profound question, and this book explores possible answers more acutely than anything I have seen on the subject.—Garry L. Hagberg, author of Describing Ourselves: Wittgenstein and Autobiographical Consciousness

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