Elizabeth McCracken: more figurative language….

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes from Elizabeth McCracken…

Contemporary American writer Elizabeth McCracken has one of the best — most skillful — ears around for figurative language.

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Elizabeth McCracken was born in Boston, Massachusetts and earned a B.A. and M.A. in English from Boston University, an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, and an M.S. in Library Science from Drexel University. She is married to the novelist Edward Carey.

Her signature novel, The Giant’s House, is on my lifetime top 10 book list. And now she has another quirky novel, centring on a bowling alley for goodness’ sake, Bowlaway.

Here are my favourite snippets of figurative language from that one:

  • Once the bowling alley has opened for the day, the pinboys will sit on the ledge like judges or vultures, but not yet.
  • Nobody sits at the bar along the other wall, though the jar of pickled eggs glows like a fortune-teller.
  • The tables and chairs in the middle of the room await lollygaggers.
  • She turned to him with a gleaming expression bright and greedy and promising as a collection plate.
  • She had small eyes and a big mouth, like a carnivorous mouse.
  • He said, in a voice quiet as a comb, “I knew you’d turn up eventually.”
  • She was not beautiful, thought Dr Leviticus Sprague. Not in the way he had been raised to think of beauty. Her skin was custard. Her hair was the color of bruised fruit.
  • As a child he’d been shot in the ear by his brother and the resulting scar made him look not blown apart by violence, but as though something deep in his head had tunneled its way out and, famished, lapped and then gnawed at the basin of his ear.
  • He seemed to ladle his laugher out like a philanthropist feeding the poor.