Dwight Garner’s figurative language….

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 series of metaphors from Dwight Garner….

I’m roughly a year-long fan of the fabulous New York Times Book Review podcast. My favourite part of the weekly show is when host Pamela Paul gathers three or four of the paper’s regular critics and hosts a “what we’re reading” session. Journalist Dwight Garner is frequently one of those critics.

For many years, the Book Review’s editor, Garner has had his essays and criticism appear in the New Republic, Harper’s, Slate and elsewhere.

As a result of my somewhat cultish following of the podcast, I now check the podcast’s webpage every week, to learn even greater details about the books they describe. As a result, I discovered Garner’s wonderful recent article under the headline, “Two New Books Have Anglophiles and Bibliophiles Covered.”

Reviewing two books of literary history, Garner not only presents his droll wit, he also displays an uncommon ease with figurative language.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • This book’s cover, Peter Campbell’s drawing of the author while she’s making a sketch of male genitalia from museum sculptures, is one for the ages — a flinty subversion of the male gaze.
  • [Mary-Kay] Wilmers is a summa cum laude graduate of the Joan Didion-Elizabeth Hardwick-Janet Malcolm school of dispassionate restraint and psychological acuity. She can do more damage with a raised eyebrow than most critics can do with a mace.
  • Her wit steals in like a cat through an unlatched window.
  • He does so ingeniously, compiling it from original documents — letters, memos, catalog copy, diary entries. It’s a jigsaw puzzle that slowly comes together.
  • More often a kind of Dunkirk spirit prevailed. Geoffrey Faber was a rock, and clearly a great-souled man. He’s a bit of a rock in print as well — his letters and diary entries evidence nobility but rarely shine.