A black car that purred at the curb…

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a metaphor from Maile Meloy.

Some writers are so productive with figurative language that I view them as veritable “metaphor factories.” Maile Meloy (pictured above) is one of those people. She turns out metaphors the way Ivory produces bars of soap, the way Hollywood produces movies, the way the clear night sky sparkles with a multitude stars.

I don’t mean to imply that her metaphors are a commodity — something for which there is demand but little qualitative difference (e.g.: copper.) To the contrary, her images are simple but finely honed. I’ve written before about the sentences in her marvellous book of short stories, Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It. Today, I have a new sentence — and a new image — to share with you.

She gave me a happy smile of self-welcome, then turned and waved to a black car with dark windows that purred at the curb.

Cars are frequently compared to animals — think of the Barracuda, the Bronco and the Cougar — but I like the way Meloy makes the personification (or, do I mean animal-ification) in this charming story about a late grandmother who suddenly reappears on her grandson’s front doorstep. The car doesn’t just sit in the driveway; it purrs.

As a reader you can almost feel how much Meloy is enjoying herself as she writes this offbeat little tale. Offbeat but not lightweight.

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