9 1/2 Narrow by Patricia Morrisroe
Published by Gotham Books, 256 pages, $27
Patricia Morrisroe began her lively trot through life in Andover, where her love for shoes started with a crush on a little friend’s white Mary Janes. She successfully lobbied for her own pair, only to have her quirky mother—her comic foil throughout this book—offhandedly inform her that she was born with 12 toes.
Those Mary Janes are the jumping-off point for this memoir, told through favorite pairs that define each era of Morrisroe’s life. As an adolescent, she falls for wedgies, and the sight of Jackie Kennedy’s Ferragamo version validates her obsession; wearing a pair to her own confirmation is as significant as the event itself. When the Beatles hit, she and her pals form a little band and wear their iconic boots—black with side zippers and Cuban heels—to the horror of Sister Superior. And later there’s much wobbling in stilettos.
What’s entertaining about her life story and footwear adoration is the irony Morrisroe blends into every scene; her comic timing brings peels of laughter, even when her mother is being pilloried. Romances and a peripatetic career in journalism also spark wry observations: In Hollywood, her boyfriend interviews Schwarzenegger, who says, “Doomp the leetle guy and be vid me.” No dice, Arnold. She finally meets her match in a man as close to his beloved Pumas as she’s been to her shoes, leading to a walk down the aisle in heels preworn, of course, by her mother.
From page 182: Female activist Beatrice Faust believes that high heels are not just a turn-on for men. By making the buttocks undulate twice as much, they spread sexual sensations throughout a woman’s body. Since I’ve never walked far enough in high heels to experience multiple undulations, I’ll have to take her word for it.