Finis: SOCK

October 26, 2016

Earlier this month, I sent my manuscript for SOCK off to the publisher. I'm sure plenty of work remains, with edits, et cetera, but to be done with the basic writing of this intense, year-plus project feels strange. I'm a little sad, to be honest. I miss it. This project. Or, rather, this subject. Yes, I miss thinking about socks.

It was interesting to write a book about what seems, at first blush, such a tiny and easily dismissed topic. In fact, as soon as I'd signed the contract to  do so—write a book about socks!?!—I realized I had no idea how to go about it. Socks? Socks! What is there to say about socks?? But researching socks quickly led to researching feet, and researching feet led to researching human anatomy, and human anatomy led to bipedalism, and bipedalism led (in mighty interesting ways) to human sexuality. As you might imagine, things branched wildly from there. I wound up writing about fetishism and the paintings of Egon Schiele (who was obsessed, in a complicated, existentially fraught sort of way, with socks and stockings) and George Bataille's "theory of the big toe," and the essentially liminal nature of socks. And that's just one chapter. Other chapters deal with feminism, craftivism, the language of clothes, the evolution of socks, and the terrifying dangers of fast fashion.

Above are some of the books I spent the last year-plus immersed in reading. This pile moved with me pretty much wherever I went—my study, the living room, the kitchen, my bedroom, up to a small island in Maine (where we spend a chunk of every summer), down to an A-frame on Martha's Vineyard (where sometimes we do the same). I lugged them on a 12-hour train ride to Virginia, where I had a writing residency last winter. In short, these books have been my fascinating, mind-expanding ball and chain for a long time. And now I miss them, especially those I returned to the library last week. They include Roland Barthes on the language (and grammar and vocabulary) of fashion. Georges Bataille on bipedalism and the "vegetal erection." William Rossi on the sex life of the foot and shoe. J. C. Fl├╝gel on the psychology of clothes. And Bernard Rudofsky on the hypocricy and cultural neuroticisms embedded in the things we wear.

As a writer, I found it deeply reassuring to see how such a tiny subject—practically the tiniest one I could think of—was capable of opening up into something much, much larger as long as I kept my curiosity about it alive.