The figurative language of Pamela Paul

Pamela Paul
Credit: EARL WILSON/New York Times

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes and metaphors from Pamela Paul….

When I heard about Pamela Paul’s “BOB” — an acronym meaning Book of Books — I knew I had to read her memoir. Paul, the New York Times book review editor has kept a list of every book she’s read for the last 28 years. I, too, have my own BOB (which I’ve kept for about 25 years) although I transferred mine from a notebook to a digital version more than a decade ago because my handwriting had become so impossible to read.

The value of having a BOB is enormous. It allows you to remember what you’ve read (a challenge if you read a lot — and one that becomes ever more acute as you age). It also helps you see patterns in your reading — the balance of fiction vs. non- and your obsessions with various topics and authors over time. As well, it gives you a handy place to look when friends request book recommendations. Pamela Paul needed to do no convincing of me — I was already completely onboard with the idea of cherishing a BOB.

I also liked the title of her memoir, which was both wry and self-deprecating: My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues.

But most of all, I enjoyed some of her figurative language. My favourite examples are here:

  • I almost wished I had missed the plane, because it hit a patch of rough air over the Atlantic and dipped its way to Europe in bell-curved swoops.
  • A place, known primarily for its cheese, which frankly isn’t a mark of distinction in rural France.
  • I still have a mental image of my feet overhead, hair obstructing my view, and then a whump as I landed and reverberated back up like a ball momentarily drawn by the suction of a vacuum cleaner, the air forced out of my lungs, before I slumped back to the ground and went into shock.
  • The morning headlines, Enid Nemy’s “Metropolitan Diary” in the Times, a breezy Vanity Fair article about a long-forgotten Las Vegas scandal, it didn’t matter what — in a miracle of thematic unity, everything managed to be about my heartbreak, every story thread getting tangled in the shreds of my unraveling life.
  • But no matter how hard I tried to dive into other people’s stories, it felt impossible not to get mired in my own, which rattled in my head like a taunting earworm.

If you’re a serious reader, you too might want to consider the idea of creating your own BOB. My only regret is that I didn’t start mine when I was younger.

Posted November 9th, 2017 in Figurative language