"I've seen things here, Henry. Real things. A real side of this woman's life...We lead a whole other life when we're confident no-one is watching us. That's why models are no good. Call it spying if you want, but this experiment might be the only way to get at that life."
The Third Eye by David Knowles is an intelligent, elegantly written book that presents the reader with a profound and subtle study of the psychology of voyeurism. The protagonist, Jefferson, considers himself an artist whose aesthetic is the everyday world and the chance articulations of beauty it produces. Renting out his Manhattan apartment to beautiful young women, Jefferson then proceeds to spy on them, photographing them in their everyday lives, while his protege, Henry, a young painter, uses the photos to produce his own canvases. Things go well for them until the arrival of the mysterious Maya, whose forehead is marked by a bindi, the Hindu emblem of the third eye, and who frustratingly avoids being photographed. Jefferson's project begins to unravel as he becomes obsessed with capturing an image of the elusive woman, and as he begins to suspect that Maya is playing an elaborate game with him--his illusions of control and aesthetic superiority challenged by her (inadvertent?) refusal to play the role he has set for her, and by Henry's increasing independence as an artist.
Told in the first-person from Jefferson's point of view, and merging the cool prose and existential characters of Paul Auster with the decadent aestheticism of J.K. Huysmans Against Nature, Knowles's novel explores the boundaries between art and life, between privacy and voyeurism, within a beautifully controlled structure of increasing tension and mystery: the result is immensely readable and pleasurably complex. --Burhan Tufail