The figurative language of Stephen McCauley…

Reading time: Less than 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 Stephen McCauley…

American novelist Stephen McCauley (pictured above), started his working life by teaching yoga, working at a hotel, a kindergarten, and being a travel agent. His life changed in the 1980s when he moved to Brooklyn and starting taking writing classes at Columbia University. His graduation thesis eventually became the published book, The Object of My Affection

I recently finished reading his 2018 book My Ex-Life: A Novel — the story of fiftysomething former spouses (one gay, one straight) who reconnect in a seaside Massachusetts town — both charming and amusing.

He also uses terrific figurative language, as the following examples demonstrate:

  • Someone else might have looked ragged with a blouse partly untucked or a clip coming loose from her hair, but those details gave Renata a world-weary glamour, like the former mistress of a French politician.
  • The result was a standoff that ended when he handed Leonard the obligatory bottle of wine. Leonard did him the courtesy of accepting it without reading the label, the way you might avoid looking at a stain on someone’s shirt or a mole on their lip.
  • The first floor of the house had been professionally decorated and therefore had the strange cohesion that makes a space beautiful and serene but gives it the air of being uninhabited.
  • The ocean was at the end of the street a vast field of blue dotted with bright lobster boats that looked so authentic and appealing, they might have been placed there by the tourist board.
  • All couples start off as Romeo and Juliet and end up as Laurel and Hardy.
  • She talked in a cheerful way about a doctor she’d worked for who’d moved to San Francisco and the astonishing real estate prices there, all while carefully extracting vegetable from the pasta with the skill of a brain surgeon and then creasing and folding them with her knife and fork as if she were practicing a culinary form of origami.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Nov. 29/18.

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