The figurative language of Ruth Ozeki…

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about metaphors from Ruth Ozeki…

Ruth Ozeki is a writer, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest. Her breakout first novel, which was published in 1998, was based on her work in Japanese television. Titled My Year of Meats her book tells the story of two women, living on opposite sides of the world, whose lives are connected by a TV cooking show.  It won the 1998 Kiriyama Prize and the 1998 Imus/Barnes & Noble American Book Award.


Her more recent novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness — about a 13-year-old boy whose father has died — contains aspects of magic realism. This is not a genre I usually find appealing. Still, Ruth Ozeki is a highly skillful writer. Here are my favourite examples of her highly metaphorical language:

  • Joe was his name, a tall, lean, wolfish man with sunken eyes and a slow grin that split his face like a fissure.
  • Sheltered I this quiet bubble, they would lie on their sides in bed with the infant Beny between them, their bodies like two parenthesis, enclosing a small star. (*)
  • Early mornings [at the library] belonged to the seniors: the elderly men in threadbare jackets, hovering over the newspaper pages like patient old herons; the gray-haired ladies in tracksuits and sun visors, perched like pigeons on the edges of their chairs.
  • He listened to the small, quick sounds of the typing lady’s fingers. Earlier, her tapping had sounded like raindrops, but now it sounded more like a flock of starlings lifting from a wheat field and then settling again, blending back into the Library’s ambient hush.
  • He felt a sad weight like cold, wet sand on an empty beach in the middle of winter, and realized he could let the sand bury him, or he could try to walk on top of it.
  • Under the soft pressure of her palm, he could feel his heart, like a bird, a trapped thing, battering itself against the glass.
  • The décor in the reception area was spare, done in soft, minimalist shades of mauve and dove gray. Plush ottomans were scattered here and there like islands.
  • But that evening, I didn’t hear anything, just the lady typing, which sounded like raindrops or starlings or pebbles being washed up on the beach by waves.
Scroll to Top