Your therapist is probably giving you multiple personality disorder.

   

Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris by Asti Hustvedt. 372 pages. W.W. Norton & Company. $26.95. Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case by Debbie Nathan. 320 pages. Free Press. $26.

Oh sure, he’s going to deny it. He will say you obviously had some problems to begin with, and that he just uncovered the form they’re taking and their source. And there you will be, disassociated into several different personalities. People you don’t know will greet you with names you don’t recognize. You’ll find notes around your apartment written in unfamiliar handwriting. You’ll walk into hotel rooms without pants (every person who has ever had multiple personality disorder has always had one who was a slut).

And maybe by the end of it… More…

Collecting always seems to start with rocks. My pack-rat father was explaining to me that his first collection was a box of strangely colored stones from the roadside near his home in Tecumseh, Kansas. He remembered one particularly exciting day in his collecting history. “I remember finding a pile of small clear crystals in the ditch along a driveway when I was probably in the 2nd or 3rd grade,” he told me. “I was immediately convinced they were diamonds and filled my pockets. But then I remembered a family gathering where we churned ice cream and the look of the salt that was added to the freezer. I finally put one to my tongue and confirmed it was salt. I was a very disappointed boy that day.”

   

Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market… More…

This is the story of two sisters. One sister is blonde and beautiful; the other is dark and dowdy. The lighter sister has the appearance of an angel, and the world is kind to her. People give her what she wants without asking any questions — all she has to do is wish. Things do not come as easily to the darker sister, who spends her life in the shadow of the lighter. Struggle and resentment has turned her sour; she mumbles and grumbles and plots her revenge. The two sisters’ lives are as different as two lives can be, all because one was blessed with beauty and the other was cursed with a more commonplace visage.

   

Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom by Catherine Hakim. 304 pages. Basic Books. $26. Model: The Ugly… More…

“Everyone in the resistance knew of [Václav] Havel.” In Anna Porter’s The Ghosts of Europe: Central Europe’s Past and Uncertain Future, Havel plays the role of rock star. The former blacklisted-playwright-turned-national-leader is a star, of course: The poet turned president. The intellectual who will lead the people out of corruption; out of despair; out of a system that denies citizens control over their income, their homes, and their jobs; out of institutionalized abuse and into a new way of being. And he did. Kinda/sorta.

   

The Ghosts of Europe: Central Europe’s Past and Uncertain Future by Anna Porter. 320 pages. Thomas Dunne Books. $25.99. Monoculture: How One Story Is Changing Everything by F.S. Michaels. 202 pages. Red Clover. $15.95.

Under the communist regime of Czechoslovakia, Havel staged plays such as the banned The Garden Party. In the… More…

There is outright sexism in the arts, and then there is that hidden, sneaky, unconscious sexism that squirms when you try to pin it in place. When Lee Krasner was in art school in 1929, the outright sexism was easiest to identify and also protest against. Under the heading of obvious sexism was the National Academy of Design’s rule that women were not allowed to paint fish. Fish were kept in the basement, where they would rot more slowly in the cooler temperatures and not stink up the studios, and women were not allowed in the basement. When Krasner unveiled her still life with fish, the administration suspended her for “painting figures without permission.” Who has ever really needed to paint a fish before they were told they were not allowed?

Lee Krasner: A Biography by Gail Levin. 560 pages. William Morrow…. More…

“Feminism is not dead.” If this is the sentence Sylvia Walby was forced to use to open her book The Future of Feminism, it casts doubt that the argument that follows will be persuasive. It carries the tone of defensiveness, of exasperation, of stomping your foot. Of “You guys.”

   

The Future of Feminism by Sylvia Walby. 224 pages. Polity. $22.95.

And yet what other way could anyone possibly open a book about such a topic? Women who are feminists, if you can bestow that title on someone from afar based on their beliefs and good deeds, squirm and writhe to avoid using the word. For a while, Bust magazine, which was founded on distinctly feminist principles in the early ’90s, would ask every interview subject whether or not they would call themselves a feminist. It was surprising who would duck out of the… More…

A girl (or boy) travels to Europe to find herself. We know what happens next.

   

In Motion: The Experience of Travel by Tony Hiss. 352 pages. Knopf. $27.95. On the Road to Babadag: Travels in the Other Europe by Andrzej Stasiuk. 272 pages. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $23.

This is a storyline woven tightly into our culture. It is in our novels, our movies, our memoir. From Henry James to Elizabeth Gilbert, this is a story we tell ourselves and each other: The act of travel, of forward motion, will somehow distill your inner essence, and deliver yourself to yourself, so that you step off of that train or out of airport baggage claim a more you version of you.

A girl travels to Europe to find herself. Except she doesn’t. She finds instead that people in Paris… More…

I was feeling cowed by Herr Engels. The four of us had retired from the Stravinsky performance to a Billy Wilder-themed bar in Berlin, the least horrible late-night option in the high end mediocrity of Potsdamer Platz. Herr Engels and his wife were enjoying retirement with a cultural event every single night, whether that be opera or the symphony or theater or a gallery opening; tonight, he had set his sights on me and wanted my opinion. I had one — small and squalid and intense as it was — but while Herr Engels had been steeped in culture, I had merely dipped a toe in. I had seen my first opera for the first time less than a year before, and he was asking for me to report on what I had seen. I didn’t have the language for it yet, not even a basic vocabulary. I started… More…

There are mistresses, and there are homewreckers. We often believe that the only thing distinguishing one from the other is revelation. The mistress is the hidden, secret lover, but the homewrecker is the same woman splashed on every tabloid cover with her baby — his or not — suddenly labeled “love child” in alarmingly large and yellow type.

All About Love: Anatomy of an Unruly Emotion by Lisa Appignanesi. 416 page. W.W. Norton & Company. $28.95. Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman by Elizabeth Abbott. 528 pages. Overlook. $30.

Secrecy is the mistress’s goal — a removal not only from the covers of magazines but also from the way we wear our marriages in our jobs and social circles and community. But the homewrecker wants this exposed chaos and splintering. And the tabloid culture is all too happy… More…

Some believe that Yeats got into the magical occult group the Golden Dawn because of his obsessive love for a woman. It happens, sometimes. Sometimes we take up hiking because our lovers appear to be half mountain goat, or we find ourselves suddenly fascinated by the work of Fritz Lang or have a burning new desire to see the Azores after a lifetime of not. Love opens up new avenues — or a new portal, as it may be. What else was Yeats to do when he suddenly fell in love with Maud Gonne, a woman who happened to sell her soul to the devil as a girl?

Yeats relays her story in his Memoirs:

She had sat one night over the fire thinking over her future life, and chance discovery of some book on magic among her father’s books had made her believe that the devil, if she… More…