Elizabeth McCracken and yet more 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 images from Elizabeth McCracken….

I learned about Elizabeth McCracken’s remarkable 1996 novel The Giant’s House, via the New York Times book review podcast. (I wrote about it recently and that’s a closeup of McCracken at the top of this post.)

After racing through that novel in a couple of days, and loving it, I quickly acquired another McCracken book, this time a memoir about the stillbirth of her first child. Poignantly titled, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, the book is beautifully written. It is also both hilariously funny and achingly sad. 

As well, the book contains Elizabeth McCracken’s trademark figurative language. Here are my favourite examples: 

  • A single sentence in French can make me sad. Every now and then I will suddenly think, What was the name of the next village over, the one with the covered market in the middle, what was the name of that restaurant we used to go to, and I find I can’t remember, the information’s gone like a pulled tooth, though my brain will keep poking at the empty spot.
  • I had just stepped over the border from happy pregnancy to grief, but I could still see that better, blither country, could smell the air over my shoulder could remember my fluency there, the dumb jokes, the gestures, the disappointing cuisine, the rarefied climate.
  • The intern rummaged around [my cervix] in the manner of an unhappy wife looking for a wedding ring in a garbage disposal: dutifully, thoroughly, but without much sentiment.
  • He wore a white dress shirt. His shoulder had a sorrowful hunch. His dark overhanging eyebrows looked carved from granite, like tombstones, monuments to worry.
  • Blame is a compulsive behavior, the emotional version of obsessive hand washing, until all you can do is hold your palms out till your hands are full of it, and rub, and rub, and accomplish nothing at all.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on March 7/19.

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