As cheesecloth strains broth…

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a simile from David Leavitt.

I read my first David Leavitt novel, The Lost Language of Cranes, more than 20 years ago and I can still remember being terribly impressed with his compelling plot and his sophisticated use of language.

Then I had children — triplets — and while I love them dearly,  my serious reading suffered for years, because I just didn’t have the time for it. When I was able to resume reading, I had forgotten all about David Leavitt.

Fortunately, my husband recently gave me Leavitt’s latest book, The Two Hotel Francforts, as a gift.  The writer still has his chops, and I found myself making many notes on his use of figurative language throughout the book.

Here is my two favourite similes he created:

I had forgotten to close the shutters. They strained the moonlight, as cheesecloth strains broth.

His voice was soft and hard at once, like the noise of car tires on wet gravel.

And, here, my two favourite metaphors:

On the sidewalk, pigeons strutted, their feathers the color of pencil-eraser smudges.

I like the way a great simile or metaphor feels instantly correct and intensely surprising. I’d never noticed that shutters strain moonlight, but of course they do. Pigeons are the colour of smudged pencil erasers? Of course they are!


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