Chock full of metaphors
Recently to hand, i never metaphor i didn’t like by Dr. Mardy Grothe (Collins, $14.95). It is a book of quotations with occasional interpolated comments, and reading it is like eating popcorn.
But first, the caveats: The silly pun and pointless lowercase affectation in the title, along with the author’s brandishing of his degree in psychology on the cover, are minor irritants. A more substantial difficulty is that the quotations are presented without much in the way of citation of sources. This is a problem with many popular books of quotations and particularly with quotations on Internet sites; the reader cannot verify that the remarks are accurately quoted and properly attributed.
English-major anxieties aside, this book has some good stuff on nearly every page, particularly the snarky bits:
Denis Healy on Sir Geoffrey Howe: “His speech was rather like being savaged by a dead sheep.”
Sir Thomas Beecham on the harpsichord: “Like two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof.”
Clive James on Judith Krantz’s Princess Daisy: “As a work of art, it has the same status as a long conversation between two not very bright drunks.”
John Randolph on Edward Livingston: “He shines and stinks like a rotten mackerel by moonlight.”
The “life-altering metaphors” chapter, however, is as tedious as Polonius:
Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” And that’s one of the better ones.
The “sex” chapter is a little too risque for the sober and responsible Sun, but I’ll sneak one line in:
Brett Butler: “My mom always said, ‘Men are like linoleum floors. You lay them right, and you can walk on them for thirty years.’ “
There is advice and rueful awareness in the chapter “the literary life”:
F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.”
Lawrence Kasdan: “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”
H.L. Mencken: “I write to attain that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk.
Robert Traver: “A writer judging his own work is like a deceived husband—he is frequently the last person to appreciate the true state of affairs.”
There are also many clinkers throughout, which I don’t intend to risk my wrists to keyboard. This book is a buffet; move down the line, sample, and take what you like.