- Shoe Obsessed
Pamela L. Laskin
Lyn Di lorio and Karen Clark, eds.
188 Pages; Print, $17.95
Was there ever a woman who wasn’t enamored of shoes? Despite the occasional blister, corn or bunion, disappointments that sometimes lead to “divorce” by way of the garbage pail or thrift shop, we keep on dreaming of the perfect pair remembered from the past and the elusive ones that got away. The Bally Shoe Museum in Switzerland reportedly holds 30,000 pairs of shoes from around the world, which I imagine are only slightly more various than the many kinds of shoes discussed within the pages of It’s All about Shoes.
Pamela Laskin’s introduction to the book features a discussion of shoes in fairy tales. She reminds us that those familiar stories by Hans Christian Andersen, the brothers Grimm and others employed shoes to make a point, whether moral, psychological, sociological or historical in societies where shoes or the lack of them delineated social status. Laskin then goes on to give a précis of what’s to come in each of the three sections of It’s All about Shoes—“The Past,” “The Present,” and “Coda: Thoughts for the Future.” She, herself, starts Part I with a confessional piece about her “ugly” feet that she inherited from her mother and how they led her to pursue her dreams.
Most of the 56 entries are by little or unknown living writers—all women by the way. One of the exceptions is the humorously sweet and touching “New Shoes” by the acclaimed actress/writer Anne Meara; this is one of two pieces that are included posthumously. Although she is speaking about her mother, Meara’s final line, “I miss her,” is especially poignant in this regard.
Immediately following is the extremely effective “Shoes, Cockroaches and I” by Ourida Chaal. “My second-hand shoes have tales to tell,” she writes. And so does she, telling of her imminent move from her family’s home to foster care, beautifully condensed into a page and a half. Many of the entries in It’s All about Shoes are little more than a single page in length. Among the longer and more successful ones is “42nd Street” by Margarette Gulinello, which tells of the journey from ballet slippers to the black boots of the New York City Police Department, a memoir of disappointment and failure turned to success.
One lovely memoir, “Foxie’s Pond” by Lynn Dion, relates the thrill of wearing new skates on a frozen pond before dawn, the joyfulness of it moving even me, who hates the cold, as I read, “I never wanted anything so much as I wanted that sunrise alone on the new ice.”
Among the several amusing stories that end with a tinge of sadness is Eden Novack’s “Fur Coat and Shiny Black Pumps.” In this memoir, the author’s mother goes to church in a mink coat and new shoes but has forgotten to wear a dress over her “ratty underwear.” In a photograph that accompanies this story, mother and daughter are standing side by side, daughter coatless, mom in her fur.
In a turnaround, in “What a Steal” Jacqueline Annette tells a rather serious story of thievery that has touches of humor. This is one of the few entries in the book that involves men in more than a passing reference, and whether they be a father, a dance partner, or even a salesman as in this story, they provide a welcome change in the book’s perspective.
Somewhere along the line I became aware of the proliferation of red shoes, with black (especially patent) a close second. In any case, shoes are described throughout as sexy, comfortable, adorable, good for your feet, bad for your feet, orthopedic, clunky, and a few more adjectives that set the narrator either dancing or limping.
In Part II, “The Present,” we move immediately from memoir to essay. Lyn Di Iorio’s “Parts of a Life in Shoes” at nine pages is the longest and one of the best of the...