Sock

sock
Bloomsbury, 2017
A celebration of the sublime aspects of the mundane, Sock unravels the history, construction, and necessity of this most common of objects—something we daily tug on and take off with hardly a thought—and along the way reintroduces us to our own bodies: vulnerable, bipedal, and flawed.
Part of Bloomsbury's Object Lessons Series. Chinese translation published by Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House (2020).
praise
“An utterly engaging investigation — not so much of [the sock], per se, as of human evolution, anatomy, physics, sexuality, fashion, painting, consumerism, manufacturing, and motherhood. . . . Illuminating, erudite, deeply intelligent.” —Los Angeles Review of BooksSock reflects on the brilliance present in the minutiae of our lives. With piercing wit, idiosyncratic humor and sharply insightful moments of personal examination, Adrian uses the most domestic of items as a lens through which to view the inelegance and wondrousness of humanity.” —Shelf Awareness “If a book called Sock makes you think, 'Twenty-five-thousand words on socks? Uh, no,' then you’re unclear on the concept. You’re also missing out on a thoroughly delightful discussion.” —Washington Independent Review of Books “It is a remarkable read, a perfectly satisfying balance of fact and quirk and charm.” —Knitty.com “What a treat! . . . This slim little marvel of trivia and attention to the overlooked . . . was a near-religious experience for me.” —PagesofJulia
» read an excerpt
From Chapter 3 "Socks & Industry" (©Kim Adrian)
I’m not sure how I got here, in the weird little warrens of sock ontology, hosiery history. It’s a strange place, to be sure, although I guess I'm not too surprised that I’ve landed here, given my love of small things—small, domestic things. Cookies and houseplants and children’s clumsy art projects, books and pillows, frying pans and baskets of onions, of fruit, of potatoes, a bag of birdseed, a pile of laundry.... The details of our homes speak a special language, the primary structures of which are rooted in our attitudes toward comfort and complacency, desire and resignation, habit, apathy, and that particular brand of industry we call “keeping.” My own home, to be honest, is a bit of mess, but it’s a good home, even if it’s not very large or fancy. In fact, it’s rather small and down at the heels, and, as one friend recently put it, “materially dense,” which I think just means full of stuff.

The language of the home is generally mumbled, but with an accent. The accent is feminine because the home has traditionally been the domain—the domus—of women. This may be changing, shifting as gender roles continue shift. Or it may be that our homes themselves are changing—becoming less home-like as ever-larger portions of our lives, even the most intimate aspects, flatten and attenuate in order to accommodate the digital oscillations of our screens and the various social media projected onto them. In any case, a certain shame remains attached to the idea of keeping house, no doubt because, at least in Western cultures, a far greater value has traditionally been placed on the activities performed outside the home than on those performed inside it. Even feminists have largely subscribed to this devaluation of what has been, for millennia, the arena of women’s primary contributions to the species. Perhaps this was a necessary betrayal of our foremothers, made in order to pry open doors that needed opening, beginning with the one at the front of the house. But it still seems unfair. Ungrateful. Disrespectful. And, ultimately, short-sighted.

In his essay “House for Sale,” Jonathan Franzen writes, of his mother, “Her home was the heavy (but not infinitely heavy) and sturdy (but not everlasting) God that she’d loved and served and been sustained by.” I know that God. No—no, I don’t. Not really. But in my home I have noticed something Godlike, if you think of God as a kind of spore, maybe. Or something like pollen. A kind of dense, super-saturated, vast but invisible dust. I don’t know what this thing is, exactly, but I do know that it seems to be more concentrated in some objects than in others. For example, it seems to cling with particular tenacity to my husband’s bifocals. And socks. Sometimes it clings to socks.
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