The figurative language of Merilyn Simonds…

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 similes and metaphors from Merilyn Simonds….

I became an instant fan of Canadian writer Merilyn Simonds (pictured above), about 20 years ago when I read her breathtaking creative non-fiction book The Convict Lover. The book is based on a box of letters Simonds found in her London-Ontario attic, written in 1919 by an inmate of Kingston Penitentiary to a young woman who lived on the edge of the quarry where the prisoner did hard time.

Simonds pieced together the story from the 79 letters and interspersed them with the story of incarceration inside Canada’s most notorious prison. It is hard to say which is more impressive: the detective work she performed or her remarkable writing. Thus, my expectations were high when I opened a more recent Simonds’ novel, Refuge.

I was surprised to discover that I didn’t enjoy reading this book. I found the plot overworked and some of the text laborious. But when Merilyn Simonds lets fly with her figurative language, she is still the remarkable writer I remember. Here are my favourite examples:

  • Young men with chests pumped out and hair slicked back, cigarettes clenched between their lips like teats, as if smoke could satisfy their longings.
  • Our hacienda was in Durango, near the border with Chihuahua, where the mountains rise up like fists.
  • I never wore makeup, not after I met Don Arturo’s old-lady friends and saw how face powder accumulated like silt in the crevices of their cheeks.
  • It was the laugh she recognized: like a burro braying.
  • They don’t touch, not a stray finger grazing an arm or a lock of hair brushing the other’s shoulder, but I can feel the connection between them, a thin, taut tendon that thickens by the second.
  • His body is in an ongoing tug-of-war with his clothes, which always look on the verge of escaping victorious, his jacket falling off one shoulder, his pants slipping so low on his hips I sometimes wonder how he can walk.
  • Sean perches on the edge of his chair like a frog on a lily pad, waiting for any excuse to jump in.
  • She kept her eyes fixed on the lake, its mirrored surface, the way trees poked into the blue like sharp flames.
  • How to fix the expressions that move like scudding clouds across the landscape of a face?
  • When I closed up the house in San Patricio, the flowers the villagers had brought in memory of Carlos were still clacking their stems like a bunch of dried-up old gossips.
  • I gaze at the lake and let myself sink into the mindless silence, hollowed out of meaning, the silken web of attachments fallen away, until all that is left is something I can only call me.
  • I sit on the stoop of the verandah and it [a kitten] climbs into my lap, purring in rough bursts like a badly tuned motor.
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