The figurative language of Jennifer Egan

Reading time: Less than 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 Jennifer Egan…

My husband knows how much I enjoy the writing of Jennifer Egan. So, one of his recent gifts for me was her novel, Manhattan Beach.

As I expected, I found the book — a sprawling story of gangsters, sailors, divers, and union men —  replete with fantastic figurative language, mostly similes. Here are my favourite examples:

  • She’d never been good at banter; it was like a skipping rope whose rhythm she couldn’t master enough to jump in with confidence.
  • Reversing directions, they confronted wild celebration in the western sky: streaks of gaudy pink like the delayed aftermath of a fireworks show. The sand was pink, too, as if it had absorbed the sunset and was releasing it slowly.
  • His father slapped his face with such force that tars sprayed from Dexter’s eyes like juice from an apple smashed between the jaws of a horse.
  • Bascombe’s expression yielded nothing, but his jaw muscles flexed like the gills of a gasping fish.
  • She kissed the side of Hammond’s pale cheek, leaving behind a lesion of fuchsia lipstick.
  • Her guide had left, shutting the door behind him. Anna watched the handsome gangster in his beautifully cut suit and felt their day with Lydia at Manhattan Beach dissolving like an aspirin into a tumbler of water.
  • As they rode the streetcar back, Eddie had placed a hand on each boy’s chest to steady them. He’d been startled by the sensation of their hearts scrambling like mice against his fingertips.
  • He’d a quick knifelike walk that required Dexter to stride in earnest to keep up, although he was several inches taller.
  • The Cadillac’s fragrant leather seat received him like a pair of arms, and he settled exhaustedly into its embrace.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Jan. 11/18.

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