The figurative language of Andrew Sean Greer…

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of images from American novelist Andrew Sean Greer….

One of the top five books I read in 2018 was the Pulitzer-Prize-winning comic novel Less, by Andrew Sean Greer (pictured above).

I think it takes a special talent to win a Pulitzer with a comic novel. Somehow, serious dramas always end up seeming so much more “worthy.” But the remarkable aspect of Greer’s novel isn’t so much its story —  a mildly amusing tale of a 50-year-old gay male novelist who has a complicated life. It’s the author’s finely crafted figurative language.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • As he waits, around and around the room circles a young woman in a brown wool dress, a species of tweed hummingbird, pollinating first this group of tourists and then that one.
  • At nearly fifty he is like those bronze statues in public parks that, despite one lucky knee rubbed raw by schoolchildren, discolor beautifully until they match the trees.
  • One could sit back with a bag of popcorn and watch the romances and comedies of his mind projected onto his face, and the lenses of his tortoiseshell glasses swirled with this thoughts like the iridescent membranes of soap bubbles.
  • Less’s latest novel has been living with his publisher for over a month, as any modern couple lives together before a marriage, but surely his publisher will pop the question any day now.
  • The coffeemaker in his hotel room is a hungry little mollusk, snapping open its jaws to devour pods and subsequently secreting coffee into a mug.
  • Less stands and studies him: the lines on his face like origami that has been unfolded and smoothed down with your hand, the little freckles on the forehead, the white fuzz from his ears to his crown, the coppery eyes flashing with anything but rancor.
  • Bougainvillea bloomed on their porch like a discarded prom dress.
  • His bag is the first to arrive on the luggage roller coaster: a dog eager to greet its master.
  • Hi wild hair seems the only part of him still asleep, like a cat on the pillow.
  • The Russian novelist pulls his lush eyebrows together like the parts of a modular sofa.
  • Surely the sun is already hammering the beach like a tinsmith.
  • Here, he will kill his old novel, ear out the flesh he wants, stitch it to all-new material, electrocute it with inspiration, and make it rise from the slab and stumble toward Cormorant Publishing.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Jan. 3/19.

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