The story is a spy story with a twist. Jim Wormold is a struggling vacuum cleaner salesman in Cuba. The light of his life is his daughter, Milly. Recruited into the Secret Service, Jim is an unlikely spy. He knows nothing about spycraft, but, in an attempt to prove his worth, he concocts imaginary memos to send forward, and goes so far as to recruit imaginary sources. Ultimately the story unravels—but he survives and goes on to find success within the Secret Service. Can't wait to go on to the next one.
The words "Know Thyself" were inscribed at the shrine of Apollo in Delphi. Since classical times, the concept of the individual has evolved from definition by one’s place in society to a unique catalogue of attributes. This evolution has been driven by both introspection and social norms. In turn, the differing definitions of the self have lead to values and ideals that defined societies. Rossellini traces this process from classical Greece through the Renaissance. But this is not to imply that understanding of who we are is complete by the end of the 16th century. Indeed, the process continues in the present. Rossellinni notes that the book is a "sort of psychological guide to a more rewarding and fulfilling relation with our true selves...but definitely not in a conventional way."