"When you're a girl, you never let on that you are proud, or that you know you're better at history, or biology, or French, than the girl who sits beside you and is eighteen months older. Instead you gush about how good she is at putting on nail polish or at talking to boys and you roll your eyes at the vaunted difficulty of the history/biology/French test and say 'Oh my god, it's going to be such a disaster! I'm so scared!' and you put yourself down whenever you can so that people won't feel threatened by you, so they'll like you, because you wouldn't want them to know that in you heart, you are proud, and maybe even haughty, and are riven by thoughts the revelation of which would show everyone how deeply Not Nice you are. You learn a whole other polite way of speaking to the people who mustn't see you clearly, and you know - you get told by others - that they think you're really sweet, and you feel a thrill of triumph: 'Yes, I'm good at history/biology/French, and I'm good at this too.' It doesn't ever occur to you, as you fashion your mask so carefully, that it will grow into your skin and graft itself, come to seem irremovable."
. . . .
"Sirena, on the other hand, is engaged with the life force. We all want that, really. It's what attracts us: someone who opens doors to possibility, to the barely imagined. Someone who embraces the colors and textures, the tastes and transformations - someone who embraces, period. We're all after what's juicy, what breathes. . . . [a]nd if you're wondering what could possibly be wrong with being a Purveyor of Dreams - I mean, you could say, isn't that what Art is for? - you should keep in mind that the desire to be that, to do that - to be the fittest at artistic survival - requires ruthlessness. Maybe that, really, is as good a definition as any of an artist in the world: a ruthless person."
. . . .
- The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud