"Sometime during my first week in New York City, I was standing in the tiny student room I had rented, and I turned to look at myself in the small mirror over the sink. I knew the person I was looking at was myself, and yet there was an alien quality to my reflection, an otherness that brought with it feelings of exuberance and celebration. All at once, I was looking at a stranger. In this illuminating and absorbing collection of essays, Siri Hustvedt explores many of the themes that preoccupy her novels : identity and memory, sexuality and mortality, psychology, love and the power of imagination. But here she offers her personal experience -as daughter, sister, mother, and wife, student, reader and writer -to illustrate fundamental aspects of our lives as individuals and social beings in the modern world. She draws, too, on the work of Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Dickens, probing their insights into human nature. Wise, honest and luminously intelligent, this is a book that invites us to look afresh at ourselves and the universe we inhabit.