Posts Tagged ‘shoes’
October 5, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- If you’re having trouble focusing, and meditation hasn’t helped, and Adderall hasn’t helped, and whispering “focus, focus, focusssss…” to yourself hasn’t helped, you might try standing in the nude before a group of strangers. It worked for Tom McCarthy, who enjoyed its literary benefits above all else: “Every morning, I’d turn up, strip off, and stand on a small podium while they drew me. If it was a sculpture class, the podium would turn, like a lazy Susan, as the students’ clay figures rotated atop their easels … Nothing I’ve ever done, before or since, has afforded me such a state of concentration—intense, extended, charged. I would run whole passages of text—Baudelaire, Rilke, Ponge, whomever I’d been reading, even my own small works in progress—through my head, forward, backward, taking apart each image, amplifying each meter and sub-rhythm in the loaded silence. I probably learned more about literature in the six months I spent on the podium than in the three previous years of study.”
- Advice for young lovers: treat your amour to a fine, sturdy pair of brogues. Nothing says “I love you” like English footwear. When Marina Warner’s mother moved to England, she’d never left Italy before, and her husband-to-be knew what must be done. Warner writes, “My forty-two-year-old father took her—perhaps as a present for her twenty-third birthday—to be fitted for a pair of shoes at Peal & Co, a family firm famous for its clientele: Humphrey Bogart! Marlene Dietrich! Fred Astaire! The Duke of Windsor and Mrs. Simpson! Each customer was measured, and the findings entered in a series of ledgers known as the ‘Feet Books’; the bespoke shoemakers then modeled wooden lasts to be used to make the shoes; these effigies were labeled with the client’s personal number—my mother’s was 289643—to be kept in the firm’s store for use when the next pair was ordered. The Peal dynasty of cobblers—which stretched back at least to 1791 or even, some claimed, to 1565, and showed at both the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Festival of Britain a century later—only stopped making shoes in 1965.”
March 16, 2016 | by Karen Murai
October 1, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
There is a part early in Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy in which the eponymous heroine is told that “there are more important things to think of than one’s dresses.” To which the redoutable Sophy replies, “What a stupid thing to say! Naturally there are, but not, I hold, when one is dressing for dinner.”
This is some of the soundest advice in literature. The necessary frivolities of life may as well be approached with seriousness—you’ll be dealing with them anyway.
It is my personal and firmly held conviction that if one shops thoughtfully, the actual process of dressing doesn’t demand much of one’s time; all the work has been done on the front end. But it is a sad fact of life that, in the buying, some things will take up a lot of time. Read More »
July 1, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
There are folks out there who enjoy shopping for hiking shoes. These people love researching the flexibility of EVA midsoles, fingering crampon fittings, debating the merits of lug patterns and heel brakes with knowledgeable salespeople. When they walk on in-store inclines, they imagine future expeditions; when they discuss the durability of nubuck versus split grain, it is because they are investing in the future.
For the rest of us, it’s a minor ordeal. Unlike with other sorts of clothes, athletic gear doesn’t inspire visions of who we could be; it shows us clearly who we are not. Every aspect of the process illuminates new facets of ignorance. Read More »
June 13, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Donald Hall, who published poems in our first issue, has taken to the Concord Monitor to excoriate a senator in verse: “Get out of town, / You featherheaded carpetbagging Wall St. clown, / Scott Brown!”
- Today in crass commodification: New Balance is releasing a series of shoes based on great American lit. “No one captures the essence, spirit, and the American experience better than American authors and the stories they have told throughout history. For the Made in USA Authors Collections, we pay homage to great American authors by building a collection inspired by their stories and moments.” The shoes are three hundred dollars a pair and “aren’t specifically tied to an author’s name.”
- “The history of the professional executioner is a chronicle of perfecting the choreography of death. It’s a story of exacting skill and the never-ending search for a more efficient means to enact (and contain) the spectacle of death.”
- Bob Silvers talks to The Guardian about the New York Review of Books, which is to be the subject of a new documentary by Martin Scorsese.
- No plans this weekend? Paint your actuary! “It might seem strange that an artist would lavish such care on the nuts and bolts of something so mundane, like a poet writing couplets about a corporate expense report. But … accounting paintings were a significant genre in Dutch art.”
May 22, 2013 | by Evan James
On my second day in Jakarta, an exhilarating, traffic-choked terror of a city, I’m walking through the Garden District of Grand Indonesia Shopping Town. Grand Indonesia Shopping Town claims to be one of the largest upscale shopping centers in Southeast Asia, and it’s here, with a view from half a dozen stories up down to the luxury car parked outside a showroom on the ground floor, that a frightening, familiar, visceral impulse nearly gets the best of me. As I’ve learned from talking to friends and near-strangers, it’s an impulse shared by many people, and, though the consequences of ever following through on it would suggest otherwise, not a suicidal one. I have to grip the railing that separates me from the shaft of empty space running from the top of the building to the bottom—the shaft that provides a view between floors, a vertical column boring through what would otherwise be a flat, dangerless circuit of shopping opportunities—because some part of me wants, more than it wants any other thing, to fling itself over the edge.
I remember a friend in New Zealand, goaded into conversation about this impulse, saying that it may “fall” into the same family of impulses as the one that drives us, as toddlers, to touch a hot stove. Driven by a basic instinct for discovery and, ironically, survival—a need to methodically taste-test the environment in which we are to go on living. But as an adult I only occasionally have to restrain myself from bringing my hand down on a hot grill. I often cling to a wall in the fear that I might actually, if I let my guard down, follow through on the impulse to fling. It’s as though the overriding, rational mental jury that keeps me from known harm remains undecided on the subject of sheer drops.
Some shopper, some shopping Muslim woman in a stylish hijab at Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, must see me pulling myself away from the railing carefully—carefully but forcefully, as though I am one man physically restraining another. She must wonder. Unless she understands.
Even on the second floor of the courtyard at my guesthouse in Menteng, the Jakarta neighborhood where Barack Obama spent part of his childhood (a statue of Barack as a boy stands outside of State Elementary School 01 Menteng, moved there after its original installment in Menteng Park incited protests), I gingerly bounce my fingertips against the stone wall to combat the impulse as I walk to my room.
A month ago, in Auckland, I nearly broke down on a visit to the observation deck of the Sky Tower, 610 feet above street level. The edge of the observation deck, up against a wrap-around window providing panoramic views, also features panels of glass flooring one-and-a-half inches thick. I more or less lurched over these, fearful not that I would fall through—clearly, there was no risk of that—but that the unruly, violent, psychotic and child-like impulse would finally wear me down, and I would hurl my body against the protective glass, just to see what happened.
Not that street level in Jakarta lacks for potentially perilous excitement. In a place where the mere city proper’s population tops ten million, it really is an adventure just crossing the street. Locals step into ceaseless traffic with one hand held out in a “stop” gesture, presumably hoping for the best as they ford each new roaring river of transport. After losing almost an entire day to cab rides in order to visit Kota, the derelict remains of sixteenth-century Dutch walled compound Batavia, I mostly stick to Menteng, striking out on foot. Because I want to flaunt a handsome new pair of navy leather Fred Perry shoes picked up in Sydney, I give myself painful blisters exploring the neighborhood. I make frequent stops at Indonesian coffee shops filled with cigarette smoke and chattering, stylish young people, and at the many local 7-Elevens that seem to be, with their European-style outdoor café seating, hugely popular social destinations. My heels throb with pain, lacerated by the offending shoes, but I’m charmed by life on the ground, where I can eat nasi goreng and never even think about throwing myself over a ledge.
This oddly innocent, feverishly suppressed impulse returns later, though, and with maximum intensity, at SKYE Bar, a fifty-sixth floor rooftop venue offering views of the Jakarta skyline. The bar also offers an all-too-imaginable fatal drop, which appears to me to be kept from patrons by only an admittedly discouraging band of decorative plant-life. I don’t dare investigate the truth of this statement more closely, but my old friend and city contact, Dan, concurs that there is probably no significant railing, then hands me a beer.
“Has anyone ever fallen off of it, do you think?” I ask.
“Probably not,” says Dan’s co-worker. “It’s only been open for three months.”
Another of Dan’s co-workers wonders out loud whether anyone has ever thrown a beer bottle over the edge.
“Can you imagine, if you threw a bottle off this building, what would happen if it hit a car in the street below?” I ask. “God. It would be like a meteor.”
Conversation moves on to the recent meteor event in Russia, but I’m only half-listening, the other half of me grappling with the terrible impulse to take a running jump from SKYE Bar. The immediate possibility, visible from where we stand, of a fifty-six story free fall, pulls at my body with a magnetism so nearly irresistible that my legs begin to tremble. Before too long we gravitate away from the edge, back towards the bar, where I’m certain more than a few beads of the sweat under my arms have nothing to do with the humidity here on the island of Java.
The day before I leave for Phnom Penh, I fail to muster the taxi-taking fortitude to visit Taman Mini, a theme park east of Jakarta full of pavilions encapsulating Indonesian life, including examples of the building styles and architecture of this country’s many and diverse provinces. Instead, I take a taxi to and from the post office, an errand that takes a few hours. Friends and acquaintances in Jakarta tell me that giving up on one’s ambitions for the day after running a single errand is not uncommon. (Though I don’t stay in town long enough to do it the right way, which requires purchasing entire pirated seasons of TV shows on DVD in exasperation and retreating to ones apartment, defeated by the city.) I go to the post office to send some gifts back to America by sea mail, and to get rid of the handsome, offending Fred Perry shoes that so cut up and blistered my heels.
A lithe, quick-moving young Indonesian man who may or may not work for the post office scares up a ragged cardboard box to use for packing. I sit and watch as, cigarette hanging between his lips, he stuffs in my fabrics and trinkets and the offending shoes, then uses a length of black plastic thread tied to a spear-like piece of metal to encase the parcel, with zigzagging stitches, in a layer of protective tarp. Soon the things I want to get rid of are safely hemmed in, the stitching as quaintly and monstrously uneven as on an old rag doll. The young man, still smoking, scribbles something on a scrap of cardboard, then hands it to me.
I understand this to mean the package will arrive in two to three units of time, though I don’t know what bulan means. Months, probably. It could be years. Lifetimes. I don’t really care. More than the gifts, I want the shoes gone. Blisters aside, that’s one less pair of shoes in which I could, in a moment of incomprehensible, raging curiosity, take a running leap from a Southeast Asian skyscraper, or topple to my demise from the food court at Grand Indonesia.
I nod my assent, and he hauls the thing away.
Evan James is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Sun, and elsewhere. He is writing a novel. He is also on Twitter.