The figurative language of Patricia Lockwood…

Reading time: Just over 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors and similes from Patricia Lockwood…

Did you know that if a male minister from another religion converts to Catholicism, being married is no impediment to his becoming a priest? This was the case for the father of poet Patricia Lockwood (pictured above), author of the very amusing memoir Priestdaddy.

Warning: this book will not be for everybody. The deeply religious might even find it offensive. Judging by some of the wildly divergent views on Amazon (59% gave it four stars or more; 41% gave it three stars or fewer) it’s one of those books you either love or hate.

I found the book funny but, more than that, I found Lockwood’s use of simile and metaphor to be remarkably rich. Here are my favourite examples:

  • In even his earliest pictures, he ginned with the huge, hand-rubbing glee of a cartoon villain, as if he just watched the photographer trip and fall into an open sewer.
  • His hair curled upward, dark and frizzed, like the smoke of an illegal bonfire.
  • At nineteen, I ought to have been in college along with the rest of my high school class, gaining fifteen pounds of knowledge and bursting the sweatpants of my ignorance.
  • The orotund, indignant sound of Rush Limbaugh was blasting from a radio in the corner and the drunken leprechaun sound of Bill O’Reilly was blasting from the television.
  • But when the sun sank down and was replaced by an artificial orange somehow brighter than daylight, I tiptoed downstairs and took refuge in a place of living, moving, breathing text, a book that continually wrote itself: the internet.
  • The feeling of getting an email: As if the ghost of a passenger pigeon had flown into your home and delivered it directly into your head, so swooping and unexpected and feathered was the feeling.
  • “I came as soon as I could,” she said, and hugged us both with the force of someone administering the Heimlich.
  • Poetry is a companion: you sit with it mostly in silence, and look up from your reading every once in a while to nod to it.
  • The sky has gone pink and white at the very rim, like watermelon rind.
  • The water is a trouty brown in the shallows, but becomes a startling YMCA aqua where it carves itself deeper.
  • “Feel better, Bit,” he tells me in a gentle voice, like a bear that has swallowed a songbird.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Dec. 20/18.

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