From Issue 4.2 - Summer 1998

Stepping Out Gently Into Fetish

Book review by Anna Bergman

by Geoff Nicholson
The Overlook Press 1996

Upon coming out as a shoe fetishist, I was overjoyed to discover how much company I had. I made friends to go to museum exhibits with, friends to read Elle with, and friends who were happy to polish off a pot of coffee just talking about shoes. We're everywhere, and if you're not fascinated by the mechanics of steel tipped stilettos or empathetic to the difficulties of finding size 7 in thrift stores, you can still appreciate the sheer lushness and depiction of fetishism in Geoff Nicholson's Footsucker.

Footsucker is the story of an unnamed narrator -- a normal man, as he assures us -- with a tendency to pick up a clipboard and intercept women on the street with a foot and shoe questionnaire and a camera. Because he is presentable and polite, the narrator is usually successful is gathering material for his basement shrine -- a multi-media archive of feet and shoes. It is during this research that he meets Catherine, an adventurous woman with the feet of his dreams, shod in zebra skin high heels.

The problem then shifts from finding the perfect feet to finding an owner who wants her feet worshipped as much as the fetishist wants to worship them. Catherine is happy to experiment -- to visit salons, stores, and sex clubs -- but the two eventually go too far and she moves on to new escapades. The narrator's journey into despair, abasement (bringing home a woman with pale, chipped toenail polish), and desperation ultimately brings us a murder mystery, the feet of his friend's wife, and the sacking of the archive, before the satisfying conclusion.

Nicholson is an excellent writer with an eye for detail and a sense of the mind's processes which eroticize his work. Witness this passage, which is part of a much longer, equally rich, explanation by the narrator:

"There was no road to Damascus about it, no crucial moment, no trauma. I simply decided to concentrate and focus. I gradually realized I'd had enough of all that relationship nonsense. I knew I couldn't go on the way I had been, seeing women who didn't quite hit the spot, so I decided to take the plunge. I decided to go to hell in a shoe box. I would stop pretending. I would stop being a partialist. I'd go the whole hog and throw myself into proper foot and shoe fetishism. I would stop looking for a woman with a good personality or a good complexion. I would not be averse to these things, but they would be only peripheral pleasures. Feet were what really mattered.

You might think that in doing this I had abandoned a part of my humanity, that being a fetishist involved some kid of demeaning bondage. Wrong. What I felt I had abandoned was all the dead wood, the window dressing. I was getting down to essentials, and for me it was a supreme liberation."

The research in Footsucker alone is impressive -- foot scenes in film, quotes from famous beauties, and the anatomy of the foot are all explored. In addition, there is Nicholson's skillful characterizations. An eccentric shoemaker, vibrant Catherine, and others all play off and into the main character's obsessive ruminations. For a humorous, lush and psychological read, lace up your platforms and saunter to your nearest independent bookseller to pick up Footsucker.

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Last updated: 7 September 1998