Book Club: A Conversation With Alexandra And Maria, Ctd

In our latest audio sample, the two women discuss the email from the reader on the autism spectrum who senses too much of the world around her:

You can listen to the entire conversation from Alexandra and Maria below. Follow the whole book club discussion here, and email your thoughts and observations to One reader writes:

I just finished the wonderful read of Alexandra Horowitz’s On Looking. Thanks for such a great selection and I’ve already bought many copies for family and friends.

So I paged through the chapter Sources and on the last page of Acknowledgements, Ms. Horowitz mentions her editor, Colin Harrison. She states that he has many theories about the gummed up spots on the sidewalk. Unless she plans to write the sequel of the Gummed Up Spots on the Sidewalks – will Mr. Harrison share his gummed up theories with The Dish Book Club? I’m dying to know. Living downtown Chicago, I look for Wrigley’s gum falling out of pedestrian mouths every hour and never see it happening. I look for pedestrians with sticky gum strands sticking to shoes while walking and never see it happening.  What are these gummy blobs all over our city sidewalks? I love a good conspiracy theory …


As a photographer –  someone who “looks” professionally – I’d actually downloaded the book before it became a book club choice, but I couldn’t get through it.

It’s mostly just a collection of different people observing different objects, people, sounds and smells (do sounds and smells even count in a book about “looking”?) – yes, there are a lots of objects, people, sounds and smells in the world, and no, they’re not always interesting. It seemed to me that most of the experts in the book were looking at stuff in a similar way; they just happen to be looking at different stuff.

Why wasn’t a photographer included? You can’t get more of a “professional observer” than that. As I’ve learned my craft, I realise that learning photography has very little to do with mastering all the knobs and dials on your DSLR and everything to do with learning to look, really look, and get beyond the endless collections of different objects and people. My love of photography is in direct proportion to how much I am learning to look, really look, by practising it.

To observe how the light falls on the side of someone’s face or on the pews of a church; to see interesting textural juxtapositions or beautiful colour palettes; to notice the fleeting stories conveyed in a look or a gesture or an old piece of furniture; to see the pleasing bend in the road, the interesting compositions created by unrelated shapes and colours, or the interplay of light and shadow through the trees. It’s a totally other way of looking, so very different from being yet another observational collector of stuff and facts, and it seemed a pity that this perspective wasn’t included at all.