It is like his own shadow has leaped up to get him

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about some figurative language employed by Colum McCann.

I read the Colum McCann novel Let the Great World Spin more than seven months ago. It took me four efforts to get through it (I kept stalling at the end of the first chapter) but I’m so glad I persisted.

It’s a richly written story about 10 different lives that intersect in New York city. And the figurative language? Amazing.

I stumbled across my notes from the book last week. I’d intended to post them months ago but they’d become tucked inside a folder inside a folder on my hard drive.

When I re-examined them, I could see that McCann has a particular eye (or is that ear?) for personification. I’ve listed those five examples first.

Sometimes a bit of plastic caught against a pipe or touched the top of the chain-link fence and backed away gracelessly, like it had been warned. 

They [memories] rest for a moment by our ribcages then suddenly reach in and twist our hearts a notch backward. 

The dock was old and useless, jutting out into the pond like a taunt. 

The snow re-instructed the light, bent it, colored it, bounced it. 

It is like his own shadow has leaped up to get him. 

 One looks for the chink in the armor, the leg of the piano stool shorter than the other, the sadness that would detach us from her, but the truth is we enjoyed each other, all three of us, and never so evidently as those Sundays when the rain fell gray over Dublin Bay and the squalls blew fresh against the windowpane.

The long-sleeved shirt he wore was tight to his body and the bones of his ribcage were like some odd musical instrument. 

If you’re planning your summer reading, this would be an excellent book to add to your list.

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