Monday, October 16, 2023

Book Review: How to Be Multiple

Wait, are you you or the other one? Which is the evil twin? Have you ever switched partners? Can you read each other's mind? Twins get asked the weirdest questions by strangers, loved ones, even themselves. For Helena de Bres, a twin and philosophy professor, these questions are closely tied to some of philosophy's most unnerving unknowns. What makes someone themself rather than someone else? Can one person be housed in two bodies? What does perfect love look like? Can we really act freely? At what point does wonder morph into objectification?

Accompanied by her twin Julia's drawings, Helena uses twinhood to rethink the limits of personhood, consciousness, love, freedom, and justice. With her inimitably candid, wry voice, she explores the long tradition of twin representations in art, myth, and popular culture; twins' peculiar social standing; and what it's really like to be one of two. With insight, hope, and humor, she argues that our reactions to twins reveal our broader desires and fears about selfhood, fate, and human connection, and that reflecting on twinhood can help each of us-twins and singletons alike-recognize our own multiplicity, and approach life with greater curiosity, imagination, and courage.

How to Be Multiple will be published on November 7th, 2023. Bloomsbury USA provided an early galley for review.

I've always found twins to be a fascinating subject - in literature, TV and movies, and in real life. I even have nieces who are twins (not identical). So, I was curious to read more about the philosophy of twins from someone who is in fact a twin herself.

I like that the book opens on a famous pair of literary twins - the Tweedle brothers from Alice in Wonderland. This was a favorite book of mine growing up. It serves as a nice starting point as most readers will have some familiarity with these two characters. The author provides several examples from books, film and more when emphasizing her points on how twins are categorized and how they often develop.

The author does a very good job at putting the reader in her shoes - to help us to understand what it is like being a twin and how the world views and treats them. I found it to be a nice touch that she used her sister both as a sounding board for the book's contents as well as the provider of the illustrations that are sprinkled throughout the book.

1 comment:

ApacheDug said...

This sounds like a fascinating read, thanks Martin. Putting this on my library hopeful list.