A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: Funny and charming short, where a few words convey a great deal.
When ugly socks attract.
Surly artist Jez just can’t help staring at the brightly colored socks of the businessman who sits opposite him on the train every day. He weaves a whole history for the mysterious stranger in a vain attempt to stave off his attraction, but it only ends up feeding his bizarre obsession. Then one hot morning, Jez finally snaps and starts sketching…
My first impression of this story involved cleaning coffee off the keyboard, because that blurb is so damned catchy.
Jez sits across the aisle of the train from a suit who’s only apparent non-conformity is owning an enormous collection of garish socks — he’s always got his head in a stack of papers. Making up stories about this man becomes nearly a full time occupation — half the story goes by before Jez gets up the courage to approach, done in a very cute and artist’s way.
Then once they meet, all those stories, beautifully crafted though they are, come apart to reveal truth after small beautiful truth. Being wrong has never been so right.
The original sidesplitter reaction doesn’t carry into the story, it’s more of a constant low level amusement, which is harder to sustain, I think. Jez knows he’s obsessing, fights the obsessing, and then enjoys his obsessing, and then—OMG has to find out the reality of Steve. The reality is wonderful. Nothing at all like his fevered imaginings, and the grinding of Jez’ brain as he processes his misconceptions is sweet and funny.
I had read this story when it came out originally, and it stands up to further readings. It was the first I’d encountered from Josephine Myles, whose language is beautiful, descriptive without being dry, and economical. She gets a lot of nuance into every phrase. Just look at this:
He probably had one of those old-fashioned wardrobes with labeled shelves for shirts, vests and sundries, and a little container on the back of the door for cuff links, just like Granddad used to have. He’d come from the kind of family where you learned how to dress properly and knew your way around a formal dinner service before you were out of your nappies. My school had been full of them, and they always knew how to put you in your place when you were there on a scholarship.
That is a huge amount of information in a little space—we now have a very good idea of Jez’s place in society, Steve’s place, or what Jez thinks it is, something about Jez’ family, and a lot about what Jez thinks about other people, his childhood, and his resentments. All from wondering where Steve keeps his socks.
Just in case you wondered, everything that happens once Jez stops drawing is as good or better — you can feel the breeze in your hair from the whoosh of him falling in love.
There are further Steve and Jez stories available through the author’s website, and all are worth reading. 5 stars