Friday, May 31, 2013

the simile-metaphor maven discovers Elizabeth Strout

Here's one  for   the    I wish I'd  read this book   while  working  on  the  new edition of  Simile Dictionary:    Olive Kitteridge , Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

Strout's   linked  stories  shape  up  as   a  terrific  novel,    something   of  modern  day  Winesburg  Ohio  in  which  the title  character  just plays   a minor   role in
the story being told. Though  Olive Kitteridge does  ultimately emerge  as  a powerful   and memorable figure.

The author   is  a  fine observer of   life in small town America,   with a take no prisoners approcah to the human condition.    This is   not  a   fluffy  beach read,   especially for anyone of a
certain age. 

Here are  some  of   Strout's  similes   I would  have included in Simile Dictionary if  I'd  read the book before now.

A cliche freshened with a new simile:    A  girl neat as a pin, if plain as a plate . 

The awkward,  nervous appearnace of  a   young couple getting married has them looking stiff as driftwood.   Also  in the  APPEARANCe  category,   Strout  describes somene's legs as  skinny as spider legs.   

The fresh air  and beauty of nature plays   a big role  in the Maine setting.   And so the effect  of  fresh air  on  one  character is like a cold washcloth on his face

 The  effects of a bad experience with another  family leaves its  mark:  The visit to the Larkin home sat inside her like a dark, messy injection of sludge spreading throughout her body.  Only telling someone about it would get it hosed out.

There's also a  striking  metaphor to  depict  the changes people  go through over the years:   The natural rubber ban around people's lives that curiosity stretched for a while had long ago returned to encompass their own particularities
The  author's new book, The Burgess Boys is  on my list  of  this summer's  reading list.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The simile-Metaphor Maven on CSC's Caucasian Chalk Circle

The reason Bertolt Brecht's  plays continue  to  be mounted is   that  his themes are, sad to say, timely as ever;  also  because  Brechtian  playwriting  elements  of music and audience interaction
are naturals for  fresh new  stagings. Case in point: the Classic Stage Company's  current  production of   The Caucasian Chalk Circle  which marries  new songs by the very much alive composer Duncan Sheik  with lyrics  by  the  late  poet  W. H. Auden.

My review    is posted at  Curtainup after the ocicial  May 30th  opening.

Here's  one  of  those lyrics  which  includes  two metaphors  (in red) and concludes with a simile (in green).

Beware of willing Judges
For truth is a black cat
In a windowless room at midnight

And justice a blind bat.
To feed the starving people
He broke the laws like bread

Friday, May 24, 2013

A catchy S mile spotted in the subway:. . .

The  simile may be a literary device  but  it  also as its  commercial  uses.  To wit,  this  poster  I just  saw in the subway  on my way to the theate advertising  a   New York Storage company:

Raising a baby in a NYC apartment is like growiing an oak tree in a thimble

Friday, May 17, 2013

Age inspires many a simile. . .

The blog Daily Writing Tips just published  a feature  called "45 Synonyms about   Old  and  Old-Fashioned" in which  the editors backed up   their reflection  about the    abundance of  synonyms    our cultural  attitudes  about  age  have seeded  with  45 words that refer to people, places, and things that are, or are considered, old or old-fashioned.

 A  quick  jump  to the heading   AGE  in  Similes Dictionary   expands  the  synonym  list with an  even larger sampling  of   similes.   Naturally the  over a hundred  similes  listed includes  the   English  language's   most  famous   simile  coiners,  William Shakespeare. with
Age like winter weather … age like winter bare  from  “Sonnet 73,” The Passionate
Pilgrim an  My age is as a lusty winter, frosty but kind  from A
— William Shakespeare, As You Like It

A  clever  mix of  a  metaphor simile  added to the Second Edition   of  the Similes Dictionary  came  from novelist Louis Begley  in a March 17, 2012  New York Times  piece entitled Age and It's Discontent".

 My body … continues to be a good sport. Provided my marvelous doctor pumps steroids
into my hip or spine when needed, it runs along on the leash like a nondescript mutt
and wags its tail

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The IRS scandal seeds a simile. . .

Collapse and Disintegration are  among the full to the brim headings in  
The Similes Dictionary.   Here's  an addition from today's 
New York Times  Op-d piece, "The Real IRS Scandal by Sheila Krumholtz 
and Robert Weinberger o (May 15, 2013)
The agency folded like wet cardboard

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Misplaced praise a la Nora Ephron: like giving a hooker points for turning a trick

The Simile sDictionary  as a fluid   linguistic tool:  

Nora Ephron  is no longer with us  to enjoy the success of  her play Lucky Guy starring  Tom Hanks.  As part of  its  push  to  promote  the play's  chances  of a Tony Award,  a  beautifully bound copy of  the play as well  as  a Vintage Paperback    of  two  of  Ephron'   column collections -- Crazy Salad (some things about women) & Scribble Scrible (notes on the media)  have been  sent to  critics.

Reading these wonderful essays,   some for the first time,   reinforces  what I already knew:  That Ephron was one  of  our best and wittiest  journalistic voices.  While it's  wonderful  that she left such a rich legacy -- it's  sad   not to  have   a more  current  bunch of  essays on these 1970s  pieces.

While not  someone  who  used similes  excessively,   she did come up with some pungent ones.  Here are a couple, I wish I'd  caught in time to  include  in the   new edition of  Similes Dictionary.

Television was covering the war.  But giving television points for that was a little like giving a hooker points for turning a trick.  -- Ephron   using a simile to make her point about   praise  incorrectly given  ("Bob Haldeman and CBS" from  Scribble Scribble).  In the same piece  she  noted  Mike Wallace's  preparedness  for  doing the Haldeman interview  thorough but  still not  enough  since  she felt  a  print rather than television interviewer was need.  Her simile to sum this up:  "Wallace was stuffed like a Strasburg goose with papers and facts and questions and quotes.
 Here's a link to my review of Ephron's  play