Who strains gossip through his tireless baleen…

Word count: 312 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. Today’s comes from novelist Michael Chabon.

The first Michael Chabon book I failed to read was The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay. It was a book club assignment. But I was busy that month, my mother was ill, the book was long (704 pages) and, well, I didn’t really like it that much. So, I just kind of flipped through it — as if riffling through a book were the same thing as reading it.

The second one I failed to read, last month, while on holiday, was Telegraph Avenue. I can’t complain about my busy-ness (I was on holiday). Or about my mother (she died, eight years ago). Or about the length of the book (a mere 480 pages). But I just couldn’t get into it, even though the story of a couple of aging California families was at least somewhat interesting to me. My husband started it too, then quit. Because he’s generally less critical than I am, his reaction made me feel free to walk away, too.

But not before nabbing one extraordinary image. Here it is:

[Garnet] Singletary was an information whale, plying his migratory route through the neighborhood, taking in all the gossip, straining it for nutrients through his tireless baleen.

This metaphor displays a masterful writer. Who else would think to treat the noun “information” as an adjective — and apply it to a whale? Also, notice how Chabon is able to sustain this image. Here is whale who not only trolls through a neighbourhood but who also strains gossip for nutrients.

Too bad I don’t like Chabon’s story telling because the guy sure can write. Maybe I’ll try this book again on my next vacation.

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