Alexandra Horowitz is the author of the bestselling Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. She teaches psychology, animal behavior, and canine cognition at Barnard College, Columbia University. Horowitz would agree with the philosopher William James who suggested that our experience is what we agree to attend to. This creative and enlightening book is structured around 12 walks around the block in New York City. The author's intent is to look for what she misses in this place she traverses every day.
On her first walk, Horowitz notices five standpipes on her street and she is confronted by a crazy-looking stranger. Then, she walks with various experts to gain new experiences and perspectives. Sidney Horenstein leads walking tours around the outcroppings of earth found in upper Manhattan. Paul Shaw helps the author come to a new appreciation of the visual stimuli of lettering.
"If you are ever bored or blue, stand on the street corner for half an hour," Maira Kalman tells the author. She concocts a drama around a sofa perched on a mound of trash in front of an apartment building. Horowitz is somewhat taken aback by her friend's capacity to see more possibilities on the street than she does.
Charley Eiseman, a field naturalist by training, opens her eyes to bug habitats in the city. John Hadidian, a scientist, reveals the variety of urban wildlife. He singles out raccoons as classic urban adapters. In the concluding chapters, Horowitz is swept away by the manifold wonders of the remaining walks with insights into jaywalking, eye contact with strangers, street noises, cell phones, and city smells.
Jules Verne once said: "Look, with all your eyes, look!" After reading this fascinating paperback, we felt like making this a mantra for our further expeditions in New York where we also live. We never knew that taking a walk around the block held so many possibilities for wonder and enchantment. Now we can mine familiar and ordinary jaunts as spiritual excursions.