Magic as advanced technology

Beck Laxton blaxton at
Thu Sep 16 07:35:51 EDT 2004

Minnow said:

> An awful lot of people in fiction have a wonderful way of being able to
> read not just facial expressions but the *eyes* of those with whom they
> are conversing. [...] 

and Jordan said:

> I've noticed that too in tons of books too! Eyes seem to "dance" or
> "sparkle"
> or anything like that a lot. I've looked for it in real life but I havent
> figured out the difference between dull and bright eyes yet. Hmmm

Ah yes! So it's not that you're borderline autistic, Minnow: people in books
aren't extra perceptive, they're extra demonstrative. A line from Noel
Streatfeild's 'The Painted Garden' (how nice not to have to apologise for
quoting a *children's* book!) springs to mind - "All their eyes were
shining, but nobody's eyes shone quite so shiningly as Jane's". I suppose in
moments of high emotion your eyes might fill with tears and this might make
them more reflective? But that soft of emotion isn't quite what NS seems to
be describing. 

And as for dancing or sparkling... I wonder if authors don't use this more
as a metaphor, really. I know there's research to show that people's eyes
are what you look at most when you're with them, so perhaps you focus on the
eyes but subliminally pick up clues from the rest of their bodies. Hmm. 

On the other hand, don't you think it is true that you can tell when someone
is faking a smile because it doesn't affect their eyes? (You can practise
this at home, too...) So maybe they do express more than we think. Isn't
current thinking that humans evolved eyebrows partly to make their faces
more expressive?


Beck Laxton
London and Cambridge
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