Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Shoes and Books: a Comparison

The wonderful Vix once mentioned she'd like to see me do a frivolous shoe post, and it got me thinking about my love for writing, my love of books, and my love of shoes. While the more high-brow types might look at fashion as something that's beneath them, whereas dusty pages of Homer and great classics are a more fruitful way to spend your time, I can't help but disagree. I think there are a lot of similarities between books and shoes - whether it's the books you write, or the ones you read.

Here's my take on it:

The High Heel vs. Chick Lit (ahem, sorry, I mean Women's Fiction)

This one's easy, right? Feel free to smack me upside the head and tell me I'm barking, but I reckon most of us might associate the glorious high-heeled shoe with this light, witty, girly genre. A genre that invariably involves at least one character strutting about in six-inch heels. On a personal level, I love wearing heels - five inches, tops, anything more is just plain torture from the moment the strap's buckled! - and I love chick lit/that type of women's fiction (also within reason. The predictable and tired love triangles don't really hold my attention for long anymore.)

The Trainer vs. the Trusty Comfort Book 

You wouldn't wear your trainers to an interview, to a book signing or to a party (well, you might, but I wouldn't) - but when you just want to be reliably comfy and you can't be bothered to think about how your feet feel, you fall back on the old trainer. Weather permitting. A hot alternative is the trusty flip flop or the really, really comfy pair of gorgeous summer sandals you love.

Like the trusty trainer, the comfy flip flop, or the soothing sandal, there's that comfort book or genre we all have. For some people it's a light holiday read (light romance, a funny travel book). For others, like me, it's a genre or a book that is always, always a pleasure to read, no matter how I feel. For me, this comfort book (tears aside) is The Time Traveler's Wife or any Georgette Heyer historical romance. However low I feel, these books cheer me right up (Heyer) or make me snuggle into a bit of gorgeously written escapism (Niffenegger).

The Shoe vs. Fantasy

Ah, and then there's the shoe. The Shoe (and heaven forbid you fail to capitalize it) is that pair of shoes that always, always makes you feel absolutely gorgeous. If you need a confidence boost, it's the shoe that takes you there; if you want to sparkle, it's the shoe that lights you up. It's the shoe you wear on that really special date, to that party where The Boy is going to be, to that job interview for the Dream Job... you get the idea.

By no means is it the most comfortable shoe you've got. In fact, it probably hurts your toes, or your calves, or - and this is for you, male readers - it makes your heel burst out into blisters the next day. Ouch. It could be a pair of heels, it could be studded gladiator sandals, it could be a shiny black formal pair that always gets you the job... regardless, it's still The Shoe, because it makes you feel like you could take on the world and win.

And isn't that just what the fantasy genre does? Whether you're fighting Dark Lords or fighting dystopian governments, doesn't the fantasy genre take us outside of ourselves, make us feel like we're somehow stronger, and don't we come out of it feeling like we could win any fight we fight? It could be an urban fantasy love story, it could be high fantasy with swords, it could be a space opera.

What's particularly interesting about this to me is that these are three types of shoes I always love, and always wear - and three types of books I simply can't resist. In fact, I even often write these types of books (though I haven't written women's fiction in ages).

And an example of a shoe I don't wear, and a genre I don't read much of?

The Punk Leather Boot vs. the Thriller

Spiky, high-risk, guaranteed adrenaline. I've never written an out-and-out thriller, and I've never worn an out-and-out leather boot. I don't think I ever will do either of those things, simply because they're not very me. But they might be very much like somebody else.

Sorry if I've put my beloved male readers off, but I hope I haven't, because I think this could work for you too. Do you have shoes that fit into your reading and writing habits? Clothes that suit your artistic or creative talents?

So how do fashion and reading/writing/art work together for you? And if they don't, fair enough. This is my map, but I'd love to hear about yours. What kinds of maps do you draw in your own habits?

And on an unrelated note, Elizabeth Mueller is hosting a blogfest about changes. She's having it in honour of my moving house, which I think is pretty darn amazing of her! So do go over and sign up if it's your kind of thing - imagine the possibilities of subjecting your characters to enormous changes!


  1. Sangu, this post is absolutely genius! I really think you should submit it to a women's magazine. What a fantastic way to represent the different aspects of literature.
    Funnily enough, although I adore a high heel I've never been a fan of chick-lit. Perhaps if I read some of yours I may be converted.
    Thanks so much for brightening up my day.
    Vix xxx

  2. Thank you, Vix! I did hope you'd enjoy the post, I'm so glad you did! That's a great idea about the magazine, I might have a look around :-)

  3. I'll resist the temptation of playing the game of finding counter-examples for each comparison. ; j

    I reckon I'm not very fashion conscious so this doesn't really speak to me, but it's a fun idea. Thanks for putting it up!

  4. What a brilliant post! I particularly like the high heel/chick lit comparison. The best of both are utterly wonderful but there is so much cheap, lazily constructed, generic crap around.

    I think shoes and clothes in general can be totally mood creating. So if I've got a girly frock on and a pair of pretty ballet pumps, it just seems rude not to be reading an appropriate book.

  5. Ha, Alesa, I'm sure you could easily find counter examples for each one! I think it's just pretty much how I see it working, so there are bound to be other ways to see it!

    Alex, thank you, and yay! A fellow shoe-lover! "The best of both are utterly wonderful but there is so much cheap, lazily constructed, generic crap around" - I love that, it really does sum it up, doesn't it?

  6. This was great - love this post! :) So much fun - and like your chick lit oops women's fiction slip... hehe, I'll never get used to that label.

  7. Thank you, Talli! Haha yes the chick lit vs. women's fiction moment was largely set off by your post about it - and by anyone and everyone going on about how chick lit is dead. Sigh. Rest in peace, o much-loved label.

  8. This is soo awesome!!! I am working on chick lit...I mean...women's fiction so I looove that! Haha!! And wow; your shoe collection must be gorgeous :)

  9. I'm glad you liked it, Saumya, thank you! Haha yes good luck with your 'women's fiction', hope your writing streak stays up!

  10. Love the I fit into the comfy shoe genre despite writing a thriller. I wear heels maybe once or twice a year.

  11. I think you can be a smart cookie and still look absolutely posh every single day. I don't think the two have to be mutually exclusive. I love being feminine and I do have a pair of THE SHOES. :) Fun post!