“To be someone—to be anyone—is about…not being someone else. Miller’s amused and inspired book is utterly compelling.”—Adam Phillips
“A compendium of expressions of wonder over what might have been…Swept up in our real lives, we quickly forget about the unreal ones. Still, there will be moments when, for good or ill, we feel confronted by our unrealized possibilities.”—New Yorker
“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
“An expertly curated tour of regret and envy in literature…Miller’s insightful and moving book—both in his own discussion and in the tales he recounts—gently nudges us toward consolation.”—Wall Street Journal
“I wish I had written this book…Examining art’s capacity to transfix, multiply, and compress, this book is itself a work of art.”—Times Higher Education
We each live one life, formed by paths taken and untaken. Choosing a job, getting married, deciding on a place to live or whether to have children—every decision precludes another. But what if you’d gone the other way? It can be a seductive thought, even a haunting one.
Andrew H. Miller illuminates this theme of modern culture: the allure of the alternate self. From Robert Frost to Sharon Olds, Virginia Woolf to Ian McEwan, Jane Hirshfield to Carl Dennis, storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have. What forces encourage us to think this way about ourselves, and to identify with fictional and poetic voices speaking from the shadows of what might have been? Not only poets and novelists, but psychologists and philosophers have much to say on this question. Miller finds wisdom in all these sources, revealing the beauty, the power, and the struggle of our unled lives.
In an elegant and provocative rumination, he lingers with other selves, listening to what they say. Peering down the path not taken can be frightening, but it has its rewards. On Not Being Someone Else offers the balm that when we confront our imaginary selves, we discover who we are.