The figurative language of Emma Straub

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 metaphors and similes from Emma Straub….

I don’t normally enjoy books that might be described as “chick lit.” I find them too banal and predictable and stuck like glue on a single topic — love.  When I approached the book Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (pictured above) on the shelves of my local bookstore, the chick lit warning rang loudly in my brain. The bright green cover with adorable line drawings in the corners screamed “chick lit” to me. And the title of the book had the word love in it.

But I had read a previous book of Straub’s, The Vacationers, and had enjoyed it. And, besides, I was going on holiday myself and wanted some easy reading.

Good decision! The book was funny, the plot was engaging and the characters were finely developed. After I declared how much I’d enjoyed it, my husband — who has an even lower tolerance for chick lit than I do —  read it and enjoyed it, too.

We also both enjoyed Straub’s facility with figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • Zoe nodded, her lower lip puffing out in a pout, its pale pink inside the color of a seashell.
  • They should have taken a taxi but it was raining and trying to get a cab in the rain in Ditmas Park was like trying to hail a polar bear.
  • Jane had taken the night off, which meant that she was probably standing in their kitchen instead of the restaurant’s kitchen, on the phone ordering twenty pounds of heirloom tomatoes from a purveyor in New Jersey, chewing on the end of a pen until it looked like the gnarled root of a tree.
  • For a second she looked actually frightened, and the dangly white tassels of her dress shook a tiny bit, almost like she was dancing.
  • When you came in or went out, even it if was just to get a sandwich, Mary Ann’s white corona of hair would begin to vibrate slightly, like a rung bell.
  • The walls were still a very pale orange, like a melted Popsicle after a rainstorm.
  • Andrew wanted to push every angry feeling he had down into his stomach and cover it with mulch and love until it was a goddamn flower bed.
  • Zoe clasped her hands together, her silver rings little punctuation marks between her fingers.
  • He had a patch of hair in between his pecs, a fleur-de-lis of brown curls.
  • Everyone at the house was earnest and open, like they’d had their senses of humor taken out and run through a car wash, which wasn’t the least bit sexy.
  • His head was sloshy and heavy, a bucket filled with wet leaves.
  • People didn’t take turns having difficult moments; they came all together, like rainstorms and puddles.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Aug. 24/17.

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