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An etertaining user's guide to seeing
on January 23, 2001
James Elkins has written a number of engaging books, and is an excellent example of a scholar who can be appreciated by the layman. His last book, "The Object Stares Back," was dark and provocative, an unsettling exploration of how we look at images. His new book is as uplifting as the previous was distressful. The book is divided into 2 sections, the first focused on man-made objects, the second to 'natural" phenomena. In part one, Elkins dissects such diverse things as cracks in old master paintings, or culverts, or special effects, and how to discover how they're made by simple observation. The section on nature includes some terrific information on sunsets, twigs, and the night sky. Never bossy or high-fallutin' in tone, Elkins conveys a sense of the wonder of vision, and the remarkable balance of simplicity and complexity in the world. There's an old quote about seeing the universe in a grain of sand; James Elkins can tell you how you, too, can look at sand and learn something about the universe in the process.