The Third Eye
ISBN 0747553165 (0-7475-5316-5)
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Softcover, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2001
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Book summary: Prime Location. Soho Sublet
March 1 to June 1. Pristine 1 BR.
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Call Jefferson (212) 496-3715
"I've seen things here, Henry. Real things. A real side of this woman's life...Call it spying if you like, but this experiment might be the only way to get at that life."
Every summer, Jefferson, the narrator of The Third Eye, sublets a pristine Manhattan apartment to a new beautiful young woman. He spends the next two months hidden behind the boarded-up windows of the building across the street, photographing his tenant as she goes about her life. Jefferson has compiled albums full of photographs from the four previous summers, which he shares only with Henry, a young painter whom Jefferson "discovered" and now "nurtures." Henry works from the photos, but so far has been allowed to show his art only to his patron, because no one, especially the subjects of the paintings, must ever suspect that the project exists. Such awareness would defeat its central purpose, to wipe away the boundary between art and everyday life.
Jefferson expects this summer's tenant to be the most sublime subject yet. Maya Vanasi is a self-assured Indian woman who wears a red dot on her forehead--a bindi, the "third eye"--and who seems to exude a mystical power, a mysterious strength that Jefferson can't resist. But almost immediately after moving into the apartment, Maya disappears, and Jefferson discovers that his new tenant is as enigmatic as the third eye itself. Desperate for an explanation, Jefferson sets out to research the bindi and the perplexing clues Maya has dropped about her identity and possible whereabouts, which lead him on a frantic exploration of Indian mysticism and into the throes of a spiraling obsession that threatens to spin his elaborate project dangerously out of control.
Suspenseful and sparely elegant, coolly eerie and atmospheric, The Third Eye is New York noir at its provocative and intelligent best, enlisting the city as its manic, ambitious, threatening self to drive the book through its exquisitely unfolded, unpredictable plot into a brilliant confrontation with the rules of morality, perception, faith, art, and reason. It is a masterful performance that proves David Knowles to be one of the most interesting and accomplished young writers at work today.
He expects his new tenant to be the most sublime "model" yet. Not only is she beautiful and self-assured, but she wears a red dot on her forehead (the "third eye" of the title), which indicates to Jefferson that she is deeply mystical, and he is fascinated. But she inexplicably eludes the camera, and he becomes obsessed.
THE THIRD EYE is a suspenseful and atmospheric New York noir, and Knowles is brilliant at exquisitely unfolding the narrator's plan in spare, elegant prose. But more than that, this debut novel is an insightful exploration of art and perception--and an opening salvo in what promises to be an extraordinary literary career. -->
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