The figurative language of Brenda McKeon…

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 simile from Brenda McKeon….

I can no longer recall how I discovered Brenda McKeon’s remarkable novel, Tender. I think, perhaps, I was browsing in a bookstore and the cover enchanted me. The green lawn of a university quandrangle, with a collection of bicycles stacked against a chain-link fence, forms the backdrop for the single word Tender. It’s beautiful.

And so is the story. A remarkably mature writer for someone so young, McKeon is Irish and a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. She’s a former reporter for The Irish Times, where she wrote on theatre, literature and the arts. In 2005 she moved to the US, and earned an MFA at Columbia University in New York City. She is currently an assistant professor in Creative Writing at Rutgers University.

Overall, McKeon’s book impressed me with its intensity and insight. Tender is the story of an obsessive young love shared by two Dublin-based friends in the 1990s. A fiercely intellingent writer, McKeon doesn’t focus so much on figurative language. Instead, she applies each word carefully, like an X-Acto knife.

Still, there was one image that pleased me immensely for it’s evocative imagery:

And somewhere else in the gallery was the actual Mao [by Andy Warhol], smug and bleary and bloated. Or, one of the actuals, actually. One of the Maos, six of the Jackies, one of the Marilyns, her lipstick glossy even in monochrome, her beauty spot like a sharp bud of dirt in the paint.