The two thought-provoking, extended essays that make up Stories We Tell Ourselves draw from the author’s richly diverse experiences and history, taking the reader on a deeply pleasurable walk to several unexpectedly profound destinations. A steady accumulation of fascinating science, psychoanalytic theory, and cultural history—ranging as far and wide as neuro-ophthalmology, ancient dream interpretation, and the essential differences between Jung and Freud—is smoothly intermixed with vivid anecdotes, entertaining digressions, and a disarming willingness to risk everything in the course of a revealing personal narrative.
“Dream Life” plumbs the depth of dreams—conceptually, biologically, and as the nursery of our most meaningful metaphors—as it considers dreams and dreaming every whichway: from the haruspicy of the Roman Empire to contemporary sleep and dream science, from the way birds dream to the way babies do, from our longing to tell them to the reasons we wish other people wouldn’t.
“Seeing Things” recounts a journey of mother and daughter—a Holmes-and-Watson pair intrepidly working their way through the mysteries of a disorder known as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome—even as it restlessly detours into the world beyond the looking glass of the unconscious itself. In essays that constantly offer layers of surprises and ever-deeper insights, the author turns a powerful lens on the relationships that make up a family, on expertise and unsatisfying diagnoses, on science and art and the pleasures of contemplation and inquiry—and on our fears, regrets, hopes, and (of course) dreams.
“The whole is seamless, beautifully crafted; the subject matter is universal; the weave of self and other—Herman and scientists, Herman and her daughter—is masterful.”—Scott Raab, author, The Whore of Akron
“This persistently amusing and endearingly eccentric book demonstrates the elasticity and élan of the personal essay in the hands of a consummate practitioner, as well as the plentiful resources of its author’s consciousness.”—Phillip Lopate, author, Art of the Personal Essay
“Stories We Tell Ourselves is a marvelous inquiry into what dreams can tell us about ourselves—in short, that some vast part of our experience, cut off from us and made unconscious, can be plumbed by anyone who is curious and persistent enough to pursue the enigmatic language of dreams.”—Annie Rogers, author, The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma
2013 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay Longlist