“…has everyone always been a private pool of silent swimming words?’”

— Jane Alison, Nine Island


“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change.”

— Stella, Rear Window


We love to spy, to sneak, to observe. We feel like we’re getting one over on somebody, or at least getting a glimpse of a life otherwise unshared. If you want to fully embrace this overly observant lifestyle, read Jane Alison’s novel Nine Island and watch Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

This pairing:

  • Celebrates voyeurism of the mundane until it is turned into the monumental
  • Uses a hot, humid climate to match ribald attitudes
  • Grasps at plenty of proverbial straws
  • Shows the consequences of slowing your life pace: something small stretching exponentially, the goldfish-sized problem bursting from its fishbowl-sized container
  • Gives indirect glimpses at glamorous lives
  • Points out how time is often personified while women are often objectified
  • Features windows upon windows that attempt to contain living beings
  • Develops main characters with tenuous romantic relationships
  • Transforms scenery into characters
  • Highlights feeble physical states and hypothetically dismembered women
  • Displays a repetitive skyline presiding over an ever-changing landscape
  • Proves that excitement is in the binoculars of the beholder
  • Demonstrates the urge to protect versus the projection of that protection

Whether window or binoculars or camera lens or pool water, this pairing tells us that interactions with others often need some kind of filter. Meanwhile, those observed are barely clothed or completely naked (or at least naked-eyed). Alison notes that if this way of relating isn’t addressed, it can lead to “Atrophy, emotional anorexia, paralysis.” So enjoy the view but don’t get carried away.