The figurative language of Michael Finkel…

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about some similes and metaphors from Michael Finkel…

Michael Finkel knew he wanted to be a writer from the age of 10. Unlike many writers, however, he was also athletic and after graduating from college in 1990, he took a job with Skiing Magazine and skied all over the world while reporting. From there, he worked for National Geographic Adventure and The New York Times Magazine and he wrote his first book, True Story, in 2005.

His second book, the one I’m writing about today, is Stranger in the Woods. Subtitled the Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, the book describes the capture of Christopher Knight, a hermit who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years.

It’s a remarkable story but Finkel’s writing is the best part about it. He has a great eye and ear for figurative language, and often a terrific sense of humour. Here are my favourite examples:

  • The trees are mostly skinny where the hermit lives, but they’re tangled over giant boulders with deadfall everywhere like pick-up sticks.
  • His broad forehead and pointy beard gave his face a triangular appearance, like a yield sign.
  • He had pale, boiled-potato-coloured skin and a sharp nose.
  • He had a nebulous brown birthmark on the back of his freckled right hand; a few stray wisps of hair coiled up from his crown like snakes being charmed.
  • Knight seemed to weigh the precision of every word he used, careful as a poet.
  • There was no little-white-lie mechanism in him — the one that deems the meal at a dinner party delicious no matter the taste, the one that keeps the gears of human interaction well oiled.
  • The police had removed much of Knight’s stuff, enough to fill two pickups and ripped down his tarps and dismantled his tent, which sat crumpled in a sad ball, a couple of poles sticking out like knotting needles.
  • At last came the call of the loons, the theme song of the North Woods, pealing like a laugh or cry, depending on your mood.
  • Knight detested headlamps; they scattered light everywhere, bright as a bar sign.
  • Language and hearing are seated in the cerebral cortex, the folded gray matter that covers the first couple of millimeters of the outer brain like wrapping paper.
  • A side door to the jail swings open and three sheriff’s deputies emerge, armed and wearing bulletproof vests, along with a prisoner, hands cuffed in front, his beard like Spanish moss.
  • [Bringing a bouquet of lilacs to a lilac garden is] like offering a glass of water to a fish.
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