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

On Not Being Someone Else

Tales of Our Unled Lives

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$18.95 • £16.95 • €17.95

ISBN 9780674271180

Publication Date: 05/03/2022

Academic Trade

232 pages

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

3 illus.


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Jacket: On Not Being Someone Else

HARDCOVER | $32.00

ISBN 9780674238084

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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.Wall Street Journal

A compendium of expressions of wonder over what might have been… We have unled lives for all sorts of reasons: because we make choices; because society constrains us; because events force our hands; most of all, because we are singular individuals, becoming more so with time… 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.—Joshua Rothman, New Yorker

Counts the ways in which narratives of unlived lives can examine or come to terms with the present… Miller believes, in short, that stories of unled lives make real life livelier… [A] capacious book.—Daisy Hildyard, Times Literary Supplement

I wish I had written this book—a wish that is surely the best response to reading it… Cosmic metaphysical speculation is combined with, and conveyed through, meticulous analysis of pictures, poems, novels and films… Examining art’s capacity to transfix, multiply, and compress, this book is itself a work of art.—Jane O’Grady, Times Higher Education

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 thoughtful, generous, amusing, tender, meandering, self-deprecating, wistful, even reverent style of thinking about our lives in relation to the stories we read.—Matthew Rubery, Public Books

Shows that the idea of lives unled is stitched into works of art across genres and across centuries, making clear that the stories we tell are often rooted in considering alternatives to the choices we’ve made.—Linda Levitt, PopMatters

Fascinating.—David Aaronovitch, The Times

Blend[s] literary criticism and personal essay into a beguiling hybrid… Will remain widely compelling for a long time to come, not only because of [its] many discrete merits, but because of [its] readership’s new intimacy with the ‘unled lives’ of lockdown and quarantine.—Elizabeth Brogden, Journal of Victorian Culture

A book of admirable insight and sensitivity… Throughout this quiet, engrossing book, Miller aptly reveals the uncanny mesmerism of the unlived life, of the untaken road—our very modern preoccupation with who we are not… This is a text fresh and alive with the power and mystery of art, steeped in feeling, and, like life itself, resplendent with possibilities as yet unrealized, with knowledge not yet known.—Alexandre Leskanich, Philosophy Now

[A] marvelous, melancholic, middle-aged meditation on the meaning of lives unled… Miller is a profoundly gifted close reader—someone whose company one would like to keep, and return to again and again.—David LaRocca, Victorian Studies

Deeply reflective and at the same time uncommonly readable… Although no book of literary criticism can be accused of being a page turner, On Not Being Someone Else comes close.Choice

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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