The figurative language of Elizabeth Weil….

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

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

Even though I have almost zero interest in organized sports, (let me read, instead!) I watched some of the 2019 US Open Women’s Tennis championships, to see Canadian Bianca Andreescu beat Serena Williams.

In fact, I’d been primed for the match after reading an evocative profile of Venus Williams, (pictured above), written by Elizabeth Weil and published in the New York Times Magazine. 

Here are my favourite examples of Elizabeth Weil’s superb figurative language:

  • Venus’s body, not in motion, looks strong but languid, weary even, the Statue of Liberty with her arm down to take a rest — right up until 0.1 seconds before she hits the ball, at which point she explodes.
  • It’s easy to stand in the present and get distracted, even a little blinded, by the klieg light of Serena. She’s flashy; she’s extroverted. Her talent is so singular that it feels as if it dropped whole from the heavens, a dense, crystalline meteorite of athletic prowess and drive.
  • She projects Thich Nhat Hanh-levels of equanimity.
  • As Richard knows well, and Venus, too, the girls were always a two-stage rocket: Venus igniting first, blasting herself up through the worst of the gravity and the grittiest friction, then separating and falling away as Serena lit up and shot into orbit alone.
  • Some days she brings her serving arm up and over her head like a black belt about to chop a plank of wood with her bare hand and hits an ace. Other times she seems to lean back and take a micronap before she completes her swing.
  • Tennis had never seen a skinny limby black girl who, by her own estimation, looked like “a baby giraffe,” so proud of her own dark skin that she wore a backless dress.
  • If their three older half sisters complained, Venus — reflexively, almost professionally, protective, like the Secret Service — told them Serena didn’t understand the rules.
  • All athletes are beautiful, but with Venus the beauty stems not only from the contours of her face and body but also from her carriage. She has a poise that, paired with her long neck, makes her seem regal, almost mythically so, like the bust of Queen Nefertiti. 
  • She often stepped onto the baseline as taped up as a book with a broken spine.