The figurative language of Tom Rachman….

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 novelist Tom Rachman….

I found the 2010 book, The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman, to be a magnificent coup — a first novel that engaged, entertained and showcased fine writing.

His next book, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, pulled off a similar accomplishment. I really liked that one, too.

I can’t say quite the same thing about his more recent work, The Italian Teacherwhich strikes me as overly laboured and less interesting.

Nevertheless, the book provides some redemptive examples of figurative language. Here are my favourite examples of figurative writing from Tom Rachman:

  • At twin grand pianos, maestros in tailcoats tinkle Debussy while scores of revelers chortle and slurp from champagne coupes, their cigarettes leaking gray ribbons before rococo murals and avant-garde artworks by Guttuso, De Chirico, Burri.
  • Squinting into a pince-nez as if through peepholes, she sashays over, waving a clutch purse designed like a pink lobster and holding down a hat shaped like a high-heeled shoe.
  • Yet even strangers find a similarity: how they walk, each footstep tentative, as if treading across a moving carpet.
  • Cecil looks into his lap, as if a map rested there.
  • His emaciated grandmother wears penciled eyebrows that rise in skeptical arcs, her short yellow hairdo pasted down, giving Ruth the impression of a shriveled lemon.
  • Pinch, cheeks burning, presses his nose into the wine glass, inhaling happiness.
  • A paunch juts over his belt, as if peeking off a high diving board.
  • One man who does appear is Marsden, turning up alongside a diminutive companion with tweezed eyebrows and carefully trimmed beard, as groomed as a French formal garden.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Sept. 27/18.

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