The figurative language of Lily King

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

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 Lily King…

I don’t know whether to be delighted or alarmed that the Artificial Intelligence lurking inside my Kindle has figured out which types of books I like to read.

Recently, it suggested to me that I’d enjoy the book Writers and Lovers by novelist Lily King, (pictured above), someone I’d never even heard of. Turns out Lily King grew up in Massachusetts and received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University.

Her five (five!) popular novels have won a boatload of prizes, including the Kirkus Award and New England Book Award for Fiction.

She’s a marvellous writer and I particularly appreciated not only her insights about the writing process but also her adept hand with figurative language.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • How’s the novel?” He says it like I made the word up myself. He’s still leaning against his car and turning only his head in my direction, as if he likes his pose too much to undo it.
  • Up on the street the heat pools just above the hoods of the parked cars, making the brick buildings squiggly.
  • It all looks like a long stream of words, like someone with a disease that involves delusions has written them. I am wasting my life. I am wasting my life. It pounds like a heartbeat.
  • ‘I’m not ever scheduling you two together again.’ He always says that. It makes you feel about six years old.
  • They aren’t stories, she told me, they’re hard little polyps I’m trying to remove from my brain.
  • The hardest thing about writing is getting in every day, breaking through the membrane. The second-hardest thing is getting out. Sometimes I sink down too deep and come up too fast. Afterward I feel wide open and skinless.
  • I feel like a conductor, finally able to hear all the instruments at once.
  • The river is flat steel, the sun not high enough to hit it yet.
  • Two quick raps and the doctor comes in. He’s very tall and very thin, a knife blade of intensity.
  • It’s a dismal day, a shredding wind, the water gunmetal gray and hard as stucco.
  • The contrast between black and white [in a photo] is so extreme his face looks carved out like an Ansel Adams rock face and the backlighting has turned his pupils into pinpricks.
  • Most of Muriel’s friends are writer, real writes, not like my old friends who got over it like the flu.
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