John MacLachlan Gray’s figurative language….

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 similes from John MacLachlan Gray….

I saw the award-winning musical Billy Bishop Goes to War — written by John MacLachlan Gray — about 39 years ago. Then I met Gray, at a dinner party, about 20 years ago. (He had been invited, by a musician friend of mine, to play the piano.)

More recently, I have finished Gray’s captivating mystery novel, The White Angel.  Set in Vancouver — where I live — and based on a real-life murder story from 1924, the story is both an interesting and entertaining read.

But I was particularly bowled over by John MacLachlan Gray’s skill with figurative language. What a creative mind he has!

Here are my favourite examples:

  • June is a chilly rebuttal to the promise of May; and when July arrives there will be no rain at all and the smoke and fog will bake the city like a chemical flan.
  • In motion, the hearse isn’t so much a conveyance for the dead as a torture chamber for the living.
  • Brakes screech; the suspension lets out a wheeze like a tired fat man.
  • When [police constable] Gorman asks a question he bows slightly, like a footman serving a round of port.
  • Constable Gorman’s pencil makes an erratic, scratching sound like a rat burrowing into a nest.
  • The motor’s frantic valves sound like castanets as the vehicle trundles down the driveway, swaying from side to side.
  • A few feet below his open window a bulbous street lamp glows like a little moon, complete with halo.
  • He closes the drawer gently, as though it contains a small animal.
  • At the same time, he could sense fear emanating from his employer like waves of heat from a small furnace.
  • Leaning over the bar, McCurdy orders a double rye from Truman MacBeth, an ex-miner with a face like a boiled soup bone.
  • In withdrawing from opium, the body sheds water like an overloaded sponge.
  • The general leans so far over the table that he might as well be lying on it.
  • His pupils are the colour and size of jaw breakers.
  • The afternoon sky is the colour of wet wool, with patches of pale reflected light form an unknown source below.
  • Clouds will cling to the nearby mountains as though sticky, like spider’s webbing, which the city experiences as a damp mist, redolent of salt, creosote and the entrails of slaughtered salmon