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The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Carroll & Graf Ed edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786720077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786720071
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #693,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

An unusual historian, Fries wears the story of his life on his feet in specially constructed orthopedic shoes. And because many have simplified evolutionary theory into the slogan "survival of the fittest," Fries measures his own conflicted identity against the terms of that theory--and against the psychological complexities of its discoverers. For in Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, Fries recognizes a pair of intellectual adventurers whose research--now in isolation, now in concert, now in conflict--illuminates his own quest to adapt to an ever-shifting environment. Indeed, Fries never appreciates his unnaturally shaped shoes more than when they enable his otherwise-crippled feet to transport him up the trails of the Galepagos Islands, where Darwin once contemplated the natural shapes of birds and reptiles. Appreciation melds with resistance, however, when Fries attempts to reframe the Darwin-Wallace debate over sexual selection from his homosexual perspective. Few are the writers who can so deftly weave science into intensely personal reflections, compellingly reminding readers of the still unfathomable mystery of one terrestrial species.

Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"Such an artful and compelling weaving together, such lovely writing. A really really great book." -- David Rakoff, author of Fraud

A beautiful account blending memory, information and insight so eloquently and uniquely. Reading this book is a rewarding absorbing experience. -- Joanna Scott, author, Various Antidotes

A beautiful and truly original book, for the quality of mind and language I found in it. Fries's reflections on adaptation led me to think in a new way about my own life of adaptations. -- Adrienne Rich

An amazing book--beautiful and unique. Kenny Fries makes dazzling connections between the most intimate details and the most sweeping panoramas, and left me changed by his insights. -- Joan Silber, author of Ideas of Heaven

Beautifully written, fascinating, incredibly original and with a great title. It says something about the human race that is truly profound. I don't know when I have read anything more pertinent or exciting. -- Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Lives of Dogs

Fascinating...With incisive passion, Fries argues that the ideas of Darwin and Wallace yield insights into how disability fits into culture....People adapt in order to survive just as species do. The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory will take you on a remarkable journey of memoir, disability, and culture -- The Washington Blade, June 8, 2007

I read this book with great pleasure, delighted by the unexpected yet perfectly apt conjunctions, by the grace and economy with which the episodes from Darwin's life and key concepts of his work are transposed into a "natural history" of the self with a poet's sense of the telling detail -- Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Servants of the Map

In this quietly revolutionary book, Fries gives us his own story, side-by-side with that of Darwin's. The juxtaposition is startling, revelatory, and ultimately redemptive. Big-hearted, generous, deeply human, this is the next wave in identity politics, and you're going to love it. -- Alison Smith, author, Name All The Animals

Kenny Fries explores both "able-bodiedness" and the legacies of Darwin's theory while literally traveling the world. There is no book quite like this and no one who reads these pages will ever forget them. This is a history of our bodies and a travelogue through landscapes and cultural signs that everyone should read in our post-colonial millennium. --Stephen Kuusisto, author, Planet of the Blind

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 10 customer reviews
It is fascinating, moving, funny.
Alice Ramirez
I also enjoyed the ink drwaings at the head of each chapter, which gave the book the feel of a naturalists' record such as Darwin or Wallace might have sketched.
Mary Johnson
I felt my thought processes adapting as I gained a greater understaing about why these two stories are really the same story.
Julia Bouwsma

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By I. Jehle on July 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
It's hard to imagine how such a through examination of evolution and it's effects on culture, mingled with a series of small refelctions of a life with special shoes (many pairs of special shoes) can be compressed into 200 or so pages of crystal clear, smooth and easy prose. This is a beautiful and profound book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mary Johnson on June 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The compelling images in Kenny Fries' History of My Shoes remained with me long after I closed its covers. This is the story of a five-foot-tall man born without fibulae in both legs who rafts through the Grand Canyon, visits Buddhist temples in Thailand, climbs Beehive Mountain in Maine, and uses his cane to flick off a cactus flower to feed a hungry iguana on the Galapagos Islands. As compelling as the story is, even more compelling are the questions Fries raises about difference, disability, adaptation, and community. Never preachy, consistently generous, written in prose that is both simple and poetic, History of My Shoes is an exercise in mind-expansion and an experience of beauty. I also enjoyed the ink drwaings at the head of each chapter, which gave the book the feel of a naturalists' record such as Darwin or Wallace might have sketched. Get this book and read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By book lover and teacher on April 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
What a gorgeously strange book this is! The story of Darwin's theory on one hand, and on the other the tale of one man living in a world that is adapted to bodies just slightly different than his own, and yet living more fully than most of us do. This book can't be classified, except as moving and extremely smart. The questions that the author asks of himself, and of our assumptions about what is normal and valuable, make this book a must read. Pass the word to your friends and family - don't miss this one!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jean A. Wertz on June 2, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kenny Fries brings together two seemingly unrelated threads - the

development of Darwin's theory and Fries' journey to live a full life

on his own terms. The contrast between these two stories offers

surprising insights into the very human process behind the development

of the theory of evolution and the author's own life. Fries writes

with clarity and grace. Highly recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Julia Bouwsma on June 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
When I write that Kenny Fries' The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory is "moving," I do not mean to imply sentimentality. What I mean is that this is a book that is intrinsically linked to the idea of motion, in both its content and and structure. It is a book that propels the reader into new ways of reading, thinking, and seeing.

By juxtaposing the stories of Darwin and Wallace and their development of a theory of evolution with his own story and the history of his orthopedic shoes, Fries gives us two different narrative threads and makes us move back and forth between them. I have to admit that at first I found this technique a little bit awkward, but as I read, I realized that the tensions in this book are what fuel it, what give it its strength and magic. I felt my thought processes adapting as I gained a greater understaing about why these two stories are really the same story. And a month after first reading the book, I think that Fries' words are still moving around in my head, working on me slowly.

Not only does Kenny Fries manage to frame a crucial discussion in a new light, he accomplishes the most difficult and greatest thing a writer can do: he creates a structure that allows his reader to move from simply reading his words to actually experiencing what they mean. We find that Fries, in pushing us to find new ways of connecting and experiencing narrative, has begun to implant in us his own philosophy of connecting with and experiencing the world.
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