The figurative language of Nicholson Baker

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

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

I had never heard of the writer Nicholson Baker until my late friend Lloyd Dykk urged me to read The Mezzanine. I borrowed the book from the library almost immediately and quickly realized it was not my usual style. Nothing happens in the book. Amazon has this to say about it:

In his startling, witty, and inexhaustibly inventive first novel — first published in 1986 and now reissued as a Grove Press paperback — the author of Vox and The Fermata uses a one-story escalator ride as the occasion for a dazzling reappraisal of everyday objects and rituals. 

Even though this is not the sort of novel I typically like, I was entranced. Later, mutual friends told me that Lloyd had sent a “fan letter” to Baker and had been thrilled to receive a reply. Subsequently, I decided to read another Baker novel, Traveling SprinklerLike The Mezzanine, it was filled with sparkling, unconventional writing and superb figurative language. Here are some examples:

  • I’m out in the garden Maud, and very fine clouds have, without my noticing, moved across the moon and collected around it like the soft gray dust in the dryer.
  • The smoke itself seems to be turning my tongue into a pink tranche of smoked salmon.
  • It was very windy and the barn creaked—I could hear the joists moving and twisting—but I ignored the wind’s white eyeballs.    

I think the one in which he compares his tongue to a tranche of smoked salmon is my favourite…

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