The wiry physique of an acrobat…

Word count: 270 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I read widely, watch movies and listen to the radio. In today’s post you’ll see an interesting piece of figurative language by Adam Green I’ve encountered recently.

I have a weakness for sleight-of-hand. As nothing more than a clumsy writer myself, I admire people who can climb up on stage and make birds appear out of hands, whiffle a sea of handkerchiefs through the air or cause cards to disappear into sleeves. For this reason, when an article titled A Pickpocket’s Tale appeared in my January 7/13 New Yorker, I was hooked.

The piece told the story of Apollo Robbins. I’d never heard of the man before but he bills himself as a “gentleman thief.” Robbins gained notoriety after pick-pocketing Secret Service agents accompanying former US president Jimmy Carter in 2001. More recently, he also managed to pick the pocket of Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller) and, impossibly, empty one of the magician’s pens of ink — without Penn being aware of it. How did he do that?

The article is both engaging and well written (read it! I give you the link, above). Here is one of my favourite metaphors from the piece:

(Apollo) Robbins is short and compact, and he has the wiry physique of an acrobat beneath the softness of a few extra pounds.

I like the way Green doesn’t just stop with the metaphor — the wiry physique of an acrobat — but, instead, burnishes it to make it more truthful and detailed. And isn’t “the softness of a few extra pounds” so much more elegant than “slightly pudgy”?

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