The figurative language of Shelby Van Pelt

Reading time: About 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 Shelby Van Pelt. 

Author Shelby Van Pelt, pictured above, grabbed my attention when I learned she had written a novel with an octopus as a main character. Then, when I learned the book had sold 1.4 million copies and earned the author a considerable advance, I decided to read it.

While overall I felt the book — Remarkably Bright Creaturessuffered from many “first novel” problems (the plot was a bit too predictable, and some of the writing barely serviceable), the chapters featuring the octopus were truly remarkable. This character was engaging, funny and sophisticated.

Shelby Van Pelt was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest (it shows in her book, which is set in Washington State) and she currently lives in Chicago with her family. I predict she will have a long career as a writer — just with better editing next time, I hope.

Here are my favourite bits of figurative language from her novel:

  • A yellow rubber glove sticks up from her back pocket like a canary’s plume as she bends over to size up her enemy.
  • She presses her hand to the ticket booth’s glass window, its diagonal crack like an old scare across someone’s cheek.
  • Barb pronounced both words, Las and Vegas, with equal weight and contempt, the way someone might say spoiled milk.
  • A white takeout carton sits atop a pile of papers on his desk, a pair of chopsticks sticking up like antennae.
  • Stopped cars are packed on the interstate like herring in a tin.
  • After the turkey and gravy have been eaten, Ethan, Cameron, and Tova leave a scandalous mountain of dirty dishes in the sink and bundle up for a walk down the waterfront, where Puget Sound shivers like a great gray ghost beyond the pier.
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