Blackened, bloodied, bird-pecked eye sockets

Word count: 288 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

A great way to improve your writing skills is to emulate the work of others. That’s why, every week, I present a sentence that I’d happily imitate. Today’s comes from Salman Rushdie.

I bought Salman Rushdie’s 1988 book The Satanic Verses in 1994, intending to read it when on bed-rest, while pregnant. A fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death had been issued in 1989, and the book remained in the news for many years while Rushie stayed in hiding until 1998. Sadly, I wasn’t able to manage the book while pregnant (trashy magazines and crime thrillers were all my hormones would permit.) But I’ve since read and enjoyed other books of his, including The Jaguar Smile.

When he released a memoir about his time in hiding, titled Joseph Anton (his alias), earlier this year, I immediately added it to my “must read” list. Recently, in the Sept. 17 New Yorker, I was thrilled to discover an excerpt from the book. I found it fascinating that he chose to write the memoir in the third person — in an effort to give himself more “distance” from the tale, he said. Here is one of the sentences I liked best:

On this day there were crowds marching down the streets of Tehran carrying posters of his face with the eyes poked out, so that he looked like one of the corpses in “The Birds,” with their blackened, bloodied, bird-pecked eye sockets. 

Isn’t it impressive that someone operating under a death threat could summon the cool rationality — not to mention the creative verve — to come up with a simile relating to a 1963 Hitchcock film? I also liked the alliteration of the final string of Bs.

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