The figurative language of Pamela Paul

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

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 Pamela Paul….

When I heard about Pamela Paul’s “BOB” — an acronym meaning Book of Books — I knew I had to read her memoir. Paul, the New York Times book review editor has kept a list of every book she’s read for the last 28 years. I, too, have my own BOB (which I’ve kept for about 25 years) although I transferred mine from a notebook to a digital version more than a decade ago because my handwriting had become so impossible to read.

The value of having a BOB is enormous. It allows you to remember what you’ve read (a challenge if you read a lot — and one that becomes ever more acute as you age). It also helps you see patterns in your reading — the balance of fiction vs. non- and your obsessions with various topics and authors over time. As well, it gives you a handy place to look when friends request book recommendations. Pamela Paul needed to do no convincing of me — I was already completely onboard with the idea of cherishing a BOB.

I also liked the title of her memoir, which was both wry and self-deprecating: My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues.

But most of all, I enjoyed some of her figurative language. My favourite examples are here:

  • I almost wished I had missed the plane, because it hit a patch of rough air over the Atlantic and dipped its way to Europe in bell-curved swoops.
  • A place, known primarily for its cheese, which frankly isn’t a mark of distinction in rural France.
  • I still have a mental image of my feet overhead, hair obstructing my view, and then a whump as I landed and reverberated back up like a ball momentarily drawn by the suction of a vacuum cleaner, the air forced out of my lungs, before I slumped back to the ground and went into shock.
  • The morning headlines, Enid Nemy’s “Metropolitan Diary” in the Times, a breezy Vanity Fair article about a long-forgotten Las Vegas scandal, it didn’t matter what — in a miracle of thematic unity, everything managed to be about my heartbreak, every story thread getting tangled in the shreds of my unraveling life.
  • But no matter how hard I tried to dive into other people’s stories, it felt impossible not to get mired in my own, which rattled in my head like a taunting earworm.

If you’re a serious reader, you too might want to consider the idea of creating your own BOB. My only regret is that I didn’t start mine when I was younger. And if you find Pamela Paul interesting, you might consider her advice about why you should consider reading books you dislike.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Nov 9/17.

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