Swedish Girl In London

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Footsie Index

Recent bookshop browsing has given rise to this random observation:

Feet = the Number One motif for Books about Girls.

Sometimes a bit of leg is also in the picture, and I've spotted the occasional mid-riff, but in general, the focus is on feet.

Just to show that I have done my research, check out these cover designs:

The Virgin Suicides
A Complicated Kindness
Cold Water
Once In A House on Fire
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
Five Miles From Outer Hope

What did I tell you? Feet, feet and further feet.

Might it be that feet photos show just enough and conceal just enough? Look at somebody's feet, and they will inevitably tell you something about the person toddling around on them.

Sometimes feet are innocent, and then normally accessorised with white ankle socks - see The Virgin Suicides and A Complicated Kindness. Sometimes they suggest a troubled childhood, usually through some bruising and a strategically placed plaster - see Once In A House on Fire and Dont' Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. (As for the rugged pair of Converse All-Stars on the cover of Cold Water, they are undoubtly much more suitable for the young protagonist's job as a waitress than the Mary-Janes the author keeps referring to throughout the book. )

And yet, in spite of this convenient shorthand, feet remain relatively anonymous. They don't intrude on your imagination the way faces do.

Of course, the mystery is only sustained until you turn the book over and are met with a close-up of the author in black-and-white. For reasons I don’t really get, I always have to match those photos with the feet on the front page. The images you come up with can be a bit disconcerting, the combination of Jeffrey Eugenides and white ankle socks being particularly unfortunate.


At 9:34 AM, Blogger Shaz said...

Do you think that maybe its a publisher with a 'foot fetish'?

Agree feet give a sense of anonymity, but have you watched Pulp Fiction. I think the foot massage conversation - mainly discussing if a foot massage means anything 'real' - signifies that feet are not necessarily viewed as innocent by all.

Interesting point also re author's image in book jackets. The pictures rarely fit the image you may have hoped for give the content and context of the author's work. Take the 'Earths Children' series for example by Jean Auel. Most characters in the book are beautiful and sexually virile. So the conjured image in my mind failed misearably to match the inside cover of her first hard back i bought...

At 4:31 AM, Blogger Haasim said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:40 AM, Blogger Haasim said...

The Time Traveler's Wife is another book that has a really great cover with feet, while also being a great read! I don't think book covers with feet are a fetish thing... in the case of the Time Traveler's Wife the cover quickly conveys information about the tone of the book (an elegant, story that has elements of science-fiction, as implied by its titled, while being grounded in reality.) As for those other books with feet covers, I don't know what to tell ya since they convey nothing and seem like a lazy and shallow attempt at being elegant and "artsy".

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Swedish Girl said...

I have to check out the Time Traveller's Wife - I've been hearing a lot about it lately.

Maybe the very schoolgirl
"innocense" conveyed by ankle socks is a bit fetishistic in itself? (Is that a word?)

Men's feet NEVER make it to the cover.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Haasim said...

Men's feet NEVER make it to the cover.
That's a very good point! (And something I would liek to see for a change.) It never even occured to me. If I ever manage to write a book, I will find some reason to have a guy's feet shon... and he wont be wearing work boots.


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