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Sock: A Novel Paperback – Audiobook, July 1, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Jillette's the big, goggled guy with the wavy Steven Seagal do, who yaks a mile a minute while his ever-silent partner, Teller, performs illusions that make Houdini look like a duffer. He writes the way he talks, in a sort of blizzard of smart-alecky, philosophical wit, but adds a pop-song allusion to nearly every paragraph; perhaps the only thing like his style is Stephen King streaming the consciousness of one of his crazed, possessed lowlifes. Jillette's narrator in his first novel is something King could have created: a sock monkey named Dickie, the childhood doll of a now six-foot-six diver for the NYPD, who fishes stiffs out of the drink, and whom Dickie calls the Little Fool. When he dredges up the overstabbed corpse of the woman he loved, Nell, a stripper-lapdancer with an intellectual streak and bed skills for days, he determines to find her killer, who in short order reprises his act with four more women and two men. The Little Fool enlists Tommy, his and Nell's homosexual mutual friend, and the two launch an investigation, strictly illegal (the Little Fool's a diver-cop, not a detective), that culminates in a nail-biting, comical, gory, bittersweet showdown. The denouement, in which Dickie yields the floor and a moral is drawn (viz., Don't have faith! [Jillette's a nonbeliever, big-time]), rather stomps things flat, but until then, Sock is socko! Ray Olson
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Review

“[Jillette] writes the way he talks, in a sort of blizzard of smart-alecky, philosophical wit, but adds a pop-song allusion to nearly every paragraph; perhaps the only thing like his style is Stephen King streaming the consciousness of one of his crazed, possessed lowlifes...Sock is socko!” ―Booklist
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (July 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312328052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312328054
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. C. Foster on August 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
When I read an article about this book coming out, I thought Best. Idea. Ever. An Atheist sock monkey telling a murder mystery. Brilliant!

I wouldn't have read it had it not been by Penn Jillette. First things first: I used to hate Penn and Teller. Back when Penn did all the voice over work for Comedy Central, he drove me nuts. But my perspective changed dramaticly after the Showtime series "Bull****." The show was fantastic. I agreed with almost every single thing on there, and it gave me a whole new dimension to who Penn Jillette was: An Atheist, like me. He's very charasmatic, convincing, and intelligent on the show. I'd even go so far as to say I have a man-crush on him.

This book is really an Atheist manifesto thinly disguised as a murder mystery told through the POV of a Sock Monkey. There is a story there, but it gets sidetracked a LOT and goes on about social commentary, including quite a bit on religion. All the lead characters are Atheist as well. And because it comes from such a hard slant, anyone of faith may have a pretty tough time getting through this.

Most people might have a tough time anyway. The writing starts off very dense. Very stream of consciousness. The level of the density at the beginning doesn't hold up all the way through, though. And the constant song refrences get kind of old. Sometimes they really seem thrown in. If it weren't the most famouse chorus lines from each song, I might not have minded.

What I think the story really is about is a love story between a gay man and a straight man without turning into a traditional love story. I am going to assume that this being Penn's first novel, and the first persion perspective, that it is mostly his actual voice coming through in the book.
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An unblinkered sort of book, "Sock" entertains while it instructs. There's a little bit of Martin Amis here, angry and funny and dark. There's a decent refutation of Pascal as well -- if you like that sort of thing there's another good one by Stanislaw Lem you might look up. The pop culture references are sometimes a bit forced, but more often than not it's fun to think about how the individual references relate to the story itself: a nice, concise way to dimensionalize the narrative. The references have a great reach, along the lines of early Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It starts with the Rolling Stones (great re-purposing of existing material) and manages to reach as far back (out?) to Safe as Milk / Trout Mask Replica vintage Captain Beefheart. Click Clack.

As a novel, "Sock" is really somewhat basic, it transposes traditional stock elements of "mysteries" into a more abstract set of events. The technique could be interpreted as a gimmick, if it weren't for the fact that the whodunit aspects aren't the real driving force of the narrative. That said, the prose is the thing and it remains fully charged throughout (honestly: no let down in the second act). In fact, in many ways the story itself could easily be considered secondary. The real driving force is some pointed stabs at capital "F" faith, god and all that comes with it. You'll find an undressing of the notion of being agnostic and a strong call for atheism. Rats, rats lay down flat.

This orientation does manage to depart, again, from the typical novel form and end our little story with a sort of essay in unmitigated and convincing favor of sanity over faith. Sock lets you know in no uncertain terms that it's time to put god on the shelf with the rest of your toys and start living like a thinking adult.
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Format: Paperback
Penn argues for atheism, subtly promotes the Libertarian Party (pp. 96-97), argues against newage (p. 101), criticizes Buddhism (pp. 139, 186), explains cold reading (pp. 184-185), puts Scientology in its place (pp. 163, 210), and tells an entertaining story of a NYPD diver and murder from the point of view of the diver's boyhood sock monkey.

I enjoyed the book very much. The ending of many paragraphs with pop culture references was at first annoying, but it became more comfortable as the book progressed, and the lines were well selected. (There's a site on the Internet that lists them all and where they came from.)

My only complaint is a very jarring change of voice that occurs in a paragraph on pp. 166-167 ("a friend of ours").
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Format: Paperback
I think the other reviewers here have covered the bases (or, basis) pretty thoroughly and they all gave great reviews, so I won't reiterate what has been already said. Though if I may take but just a moment of your time.

I recently bought Sock as to have something new to read while I traveled on a 2,600-mile road trip. I had already known that Penn Jillette was opinionated and intelligent, though I felt I might be taking a risk by reading him. I mean it was going to be a long ride and I needed something that would keep me entertained. Well, I was more than entertained by Sock; it really offered powerful insight for me to contemplate between pages.

I read constantly, modern and classic, many genres. I love books that push the proverbial envelope, whether with prose or with insight, preferably both. Moreover, while Jillette may not possess grammatical perfection, he does possess a style all his own. It's what he writes, the boldly stated truth, which makes this novel so powerful. Sock is filled with truth and emotion, and it points out the similarity and the difference between the two.

One thing I would like to mention is the Atheist air that surrounds this novel. Though I'm sure those who hold strict moralistic and religious beliefs might be appalled or even offended by some of the material, they shouldn't be. The way I see it, those very individuals could view this novel as a way to reaffirm their strength in their beliefs, not simply turn up their noses and make excuses without even reading it, or they might just learn something about themselves and learn to think for themselves. I would really love those people to read this book, whether they agree or not, just read it. However, my understanding tells me that they won't. It's their loss, really.
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