The Adam’s apple rolled like a die in his throat…

Reading time: About 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors written by Jennifer Egan.

Jennifer Egan, author of the 2011 book Look at Me, is a master of metaphor. I’ve developed the habit of using little yellow sticky notes to mark the figurative language I discover when I’m reading. When I finished her novel, it looked as though a paper note factory had exploded along the edges. 

Here are the best metaphors from her remarkably rich book. The plot? It is the story of a fashion model who has survived a disfiguring car accident. Also involved are an unhappy teenage girl, an alcoholic private eye and a terrorist. Choose your favourite metaphor from the following:

  1. The crowd curled around her like a smile.
  2. Everyone looked at him oddly—except Moose, who began laughing, too, a big chesty laugh that seemed to throw its arms around Harris’s like two drunks, their commingled mirth hushing the dining room a second time.
  3. A couple approached, the woman large in the way that couches and refrigerators were large, dressed in a loose floral pantsuit that hopped around her like a collection of eager pets.
  4. A colossal silence broke open and spread around me, a silence whose dimensions felt global, seismic, planetary; a seeping quiet that was familiar, I supposed, to astronauts and Antarctic explorers, but not to me.
  5. “That and more, baby” he said, gulping his beer so that the Adam’s apple rolled like a die in his throat.
  6. She was the only female in the room excepting the waitress, a middle-aged lady in skirt and sneakers, pink lipstick bleeding into a barbed wire of creases around her mouth.
  7. At sunset, Manhattan shimmered like a single thing, a beaten piece of gold or some mythical animal flicking its pink feathers in the sun.
  8. The sun completed its trip, curtsied, vanished.
  9. She walked away and felt calmer instantly, the way shutting a window cuts off a sound.
  10. Since his arrival in Rockford two days ago, Thomas had begun chummily abbreviating my name, as if seeing a person’s hometown were like seeing her naked— an intimacy that allowed for subsequent endearments.
  11. As I searched for my place among the printed pages, the whine of an electric saw rose from the cornfield and the sound of locusts seemed to sharpen in response—a fierce, rhythmic chatter, like a legion of monkeys.
  12. The very idea of departure made him giddy, and Moose struggled to calm himself, to anchor his mood like someone trying to peg down an unruly tent in a very strong wind (how he loathed metaphors, their coupling of unlike things into grotesques, like minotaurs), but the tent was too big, the wind too strong — his good mood continued to billow and flap untethered as he pulled out of Versailles with a whoop, punching the radio dial until he found an oldies station….
  13. There was no question now of a storm; the tarps bellied and rattled in the rising wind, and clouds like three-dimensional bruises were bearing down, leaking occasional drops.
  14. With Priscilla beside him, the paroxysms of the past several hours seemed already to have folded into something very small.

I like them all. But if forced to choose, I think I’d select number five — the Adam’s apple rolling like a die in someone’s throat. What an image!

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