Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Self Help Similes

I've just written a review of Lorrie Moore's wonderful collection of short stories, Self Help for the forthcoming issue of the Short Review, so I won't duplicate here what I've said.

But, oh, I wanted more space than my review to talk about Lorrie Moore's similes. Every one seems to be a gem, to be crafted so it shines - and yet, maybe because there are so many, they don't over balance the text in the way that makes you want to 'kill your darlings', as William Faulkner once said.

Here are some:

"He goes about the business of fondling you, like someone very tired at night having to put out the trash and bolt-lock the door."

Ouch. How about this childhood memory:

"This house is embedded in you deep, something still here you know, you think you know, a voice at the top of those stairs, perhaps, a figure on the porch, an odd apron caught high in the twigs, in the too-warm-for-a-fall-night breeze, something not right, that turret window you can still see from here, from outside, but which can't be reached from within."

And later in that paragraph, because Lorrie Moore matches long sentences with short ones just perfectly:

"The window sits like a dead eye in the turret."

More? Here's one that just hits the spot - I had to stop reading when I got to it just to admire for a few minutes:

"I look for tears in his eyes and think I spot the shiny edge of one, like a contact lens."

And this, just how I feel sometimes:

"Feel gray, like an abandoned locker room towel."

And last one, just the right hint of menace and foreshadowed pain:

"You are two spies glancing quickly at watches, necks disappearing in the hunch of your shoulders, collars upturned and slowly razoring the cab and store-lit fog like sharkfins."

Yep, this is FUN writing to read like when you meet someone who makes you talk in a way that makes you both sparkle. I want to tear it apart like a provincial dressmaker would rip into a ballgown to see how the real designers do it. Or to identify every spice in the chef's special like a zealous restaurant critic who wants to get the review right. I feel electric as if Lorrie Moore's switched on my reading lamp.

OK, OK, I'll stop now. But that's my writing prompt for today ... as many similes as I can list, and I'm excited by this exercise, like the geeky kid who actually takes end-of-term quizzes seriously.


Anonymous said...

We had to read "You're ugly too" by Lorrie Moore for my creative writing course. And you're right, LR is a very good writer!

Sarah Salway said...

Oo yes, great story. Love that mix of humour and pain!