He didn’t have a prayer…

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about an effective — and amusing — metaphor from Janet Maslin. 

I pay $3.82 per week for a digital subscription to the New York Times. To me, it’s worth every penny for ease with which it allows me to read (largely on my smart phone while I’m standing in line somewhere) and for the very fine writing it makes available to me.

Recently, I enjoyed a Janet Maslin review of a biography on Clare Booth Luce (pictured adjacent), The Price of Fame, by  Sylvia Jukes Morris. Clare Booth, was intelligent and ambitious before she married publishing magnate Henry Luce in 1935. But with him her ambitions soared.

An actress, a writer, a politician and a diplomat, Clare Luce was a natural multi-tasker who managed to do it all with considerable aplomb and social grace.

While some describe her marriage to Luce as happy, Morris has a different take. Here’s how Maslin describes it:

Her marriage to Henry Luce had long since become sexless and distant, although this book describes Clare in full battle mode, taking no prisoners, when Henry tried to obtain an actual divorce. She had by that time become an impassioned Roman Catholic, and her husband hoped to use that as reason for the marriage to end. He didn’t have a prayer. 

What makes the image so effective, I think, is the juxtaposition of two longish sentences (32 and 24 words respectively) against a sharp, five-word one. Of course it’s also perfect the way Maslin links the word “prayer” to Luce’s religious beliefs.

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