All around him, there are spies.
Some of them are detached observers,
like glass surfaces and still pools;
others, such as coats in store windows,
are prejudiced witnesses, lynchers at heart;
others, again (running water, storms),
are hysterical to the point of insanity,
have a distorted opinion of him,
and grotesquely misinterpret his actions.
He must be always on his guard
and devote every minute and
module of life to the decoding
of the undulation of things.
The very air he exhales is
indexed and filed away.
— Vladimir Nabokov, short story "Symbols and Signs," which I re-read after reading Lorrie Moore's short story "Referential" (New Yorker, May 28, 2012, issue)