The figurative language of Thad Carhart

Reading time: About 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 Thad Carhart….

My friend Jeff is a physicist who loves to read — both fiction and non. He recently gave me a copy of a delightful memoir that I devoured in two days.

Written by Thad Carhart, pictured above, this lovely book describes the life of the author — a French-speaking American — who rediscovers his love of playing the piano while living in Paris. Called The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, the book offers much more than a retelling of his life. Thad Carhart is also a gifted writer, and he employs many pieces of evocative figurative language to make his story more compelling.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • Over his white shirt and tie he was wearing a long-sleeved black smock that hung loosely to his knees and gave him a formal yet almost jaunty appearance, like an undertaker on vacation.
  • His face was open and smiling, and ringed by a slightly scruffy beard that gave him the look of a French architect.
  • He continued slowly, gazing upward as if he were a companionable schoolmaster seeking to capture the one phrase that would make things clear to a particularly problematic student.
  • In truth, my eye and my mind were constantly drawn to the big pianos arraying along the floor like enormous suitcases ready for a voyage.
  • The sheer volume of sound was thrilling; it was like driving a convertible with torrents of wind in my face, the exuberance of the moment drowning out all other sensations but that of music’s delicious momentum.
  • I played all of the notes, but I must have taken it at double the usual tempo with no regard whatsoever for phrasing, much less interpretation. When I finished I felt the way a circus animal must feel that has just successfully performed particularly difficult and silly trick.
  • Should I tell them of my lifelong love of pianos, of how I hoped to play again after many vagabond years when owing a piano was as impractical as keeping a large dog or a collection of orchids?
  • At the end of the concert the stage was littered with dead pianos, as if after some latter-day approximation of gladiatorial combat.
  • His perfectly straight spine gave him an air of great dignity, but when he moved his arms a fluid quality to his gesture surprised and delighted me, as if a tree trunk had sprouted wings.
  • Slowly he inquired about matters other than the music at hand, quietly reassuring the student while the torrent of notes and crescendos in our minds subsided like a silk veil floating down upon our shoulders.
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