The figurative language of Susan Choi…

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes from American author Susan Choi….

I don’t usually buy books as a result of advertisements, but when my favourite book podcast, the New York Times’ Book Review Podcast started running some persuasive ads for the book Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi, I fell into line.

Choi (pictured above), is an American writer based in Brooklyn who was born in Indiana to a Korean father and a Jewish mother. She earned a B.A. in Literature from Yale University and an M.F.A. from Cornell University.

Although I didn’t find the plot as compelling as I’d hoped, (it’s in part about a #metoo type of incident) I could certainly understand the fuss over Choi’s ability with figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • [He] had cast a look on them that Sarah still saw in the back of her mind. It seemed to mix score with a challenge. You look pretty nothing to me, the look flashed onto them like a spray of ice water.
  • Crossing an ocean of parking-lot asphalt they came upon the football stadium, like a ruin of Rome standing silent and bleached in the heat.
  • At the opposite end of the spectrum, Manuel, when summoned to the piano, went rigid, his sheet music snapping in the breeze of his quivering hands.
  • The cold ache, like fist pressing onto her diaphragm, has long since replaced hunger. She’s almost used to it, this pressure of sadness like a stone on her diaphragm’s bellows.
  •  There’s a narrow little staircase at the end of the hall, uncarpeted and steep, as if it’s recently grown up from being a ladder.
  • Clutching the pom-pom pajamas, Sarah locked herself into the tiny bathroom, like a forest of candles and powders and creams in which toilet, sink, and tub had accidentally grown, funguslike, through the floral perfumed understory.
  • Mr. Kingsley made a face — the sort of face a nun makes when the doings of the wicked are too regrettable to even discuss.
  • Another of Karen’s observations about people who drink is that their drunkenness doesn’t steadily accumulate like snow building up. It has valleys and peaks, of confusion and relative clearness.
  • He answered the door in a black turtleneck and black slacks, his still-copious hair like steel wool brushed straight back from the cast-iron face.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on May 16/19.

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