More figurative language from Patrick Radden Keefe

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I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes from Patrick Radden Keefe…

Patrick Radden Keefe is an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker magazine and one of the most remarkable book authors I have ever encountered.

In addition to his superb reporting skills, which allow him to amass an impressive collection of useful data, he is also able to write heart-stopping prose. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers,  Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland and Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty  

The former book was published in 2019 and I wrote about it here. The more recent book, Empire of Pain, similarly contained many examples of fine figurative language. Here are my favourite ones:

  • The New York Headquarters of the international law firm Debevoise & Plimpton occupy ten floors of a sleek black office tower that stands in a grove of skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan.
  • If White was a master of muted power, Hanly was the opposite: he looked like a lawyer in a Dick Tracy cartoon.
  • So, the Sackler Collection at Columbia just appeared in the world, as if by virgin birth, with few discernible links to the man who made it.
  • A Yale-trained lawyer, he was a southern liberal and the sort of earnest do-gooder who can occasionally strike even his supporters as being a bit in love with his own virtue.
  • Rorimer was a peculiar character. During the war, he had worked to recover artworks stolen by the Nazis and as director of the Met he would prowl the museum, like a cop on the beat, his flannel suit accented by combat boots.
  • Poppies are naturally occurring. They spread their own seeds, scattering them as they swing in the wind, like a saltshaker.
  • He was a hard worker, strong and handsome, a fastidious dresser, with a mustache and dark eyebrows, which accented his facial expressions, like punctuation marks.
  • The steel mixer popped like a balloon, and scraps of metal and white-hot chemicals exploded in every direction.
  • The tiny British overseas territory of Turks and Caicos is an archipelago of coral islands that lie scattered, like a handful of bread crumbs, across the opalescent waters between the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.
  • The structure of their financial arrangements could seem deliberately obscure, with an infinity of anonymous corporate entities, all nested like Matryoshka dolls.
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