The figurative language of Wayne Johnston…

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 metaphors from Wayne Johnston…

Novelist Wayne Johnston (pictured above) was born and raised in the St. John’s area of Newfoundland but now lives in Toronto.

Canadian readers will likely be familiar with Johnson as the bestselling author of  The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, a breathtaking book that tells the lightly fictionalized story of Joey Smallwood, who brought Newfoundland into confederation with Canada in 1949 and became its first premier.

Johnston’s latest book, First Snow, Last Light didn’t captivate me as much as Unrequited Dreams, even though both novels included the unforgettable character of Sheilagh Fielding, a drinking, smoking, giantess of a woman who writes sardonic columns for the local newspaper.

Still, I found Johnston’s figurative language as evocative as ever. And he has a Newfoundlander’s eye and ear for provocative simile, as you can see from the examples below:

  • It wasn’t the wind but the waves that I paid attention to, the foam-strewn waves that, despite the clear blue sky, were suddenly and impossibly immense, each one looming over us, blotting out all else until, as if it had pardoned us, it bore us up and we safely skidded down the other side.
  • He made eating look like a form of vigorous exercise which, though not enjoyable, was said to be good for you.
  • She faced the breeze, her long grey hair trailing out behind her, rising and falling like a tattered, edge-frayed bolt of cloth that once had been a flag.
  • Her rosary was wound around her hand like a set of brass knuckles.
  • As the same time as I dismissed such depictions of myself, I couldn’t resist encouraging them, enhancing my ersatz reputation as some sort of oddball genius, a school-of-hard-knocks graduate.
  • He looked, spoke and acted like a kind of avuncular vampire, his black hair slicked back so that it resembled a skullcap.
  • She had the look of a hyper-vigilant librarian, ears perked as if for sounds of pages being torn from books.
  • The moon shone like a sickly sun through the margin of the Narrows, its light deflected by the hills across the wind-planed water….
  • There was no moon, but the sky was clear and smeared with stars.
  • The car hugs the ground, folded in upon itself like an animal about to pounce.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on March 20/18.

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