Literary Mash Time!

ImageI’m a slow reader. That’s terrible for this blog, which is ALL about the books I’m reading at the moment and the sublime passages therein. When I don’t finish a book, you don’t get a post…So, I’ve decided to post some interim genius passages.

The first from Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club (about Grandma):

“I was grateful, at least, that she had her leg on that morning.  She’d even covered it up with these thick support hose, Support Hose, they were called. They were orange and heavier than sausage casings. Anyway, she had worn those and had wedged the black shoe back on the plastic foot. (There’s something overdressed about a shoe on a plastic foot, like it’s besides the point.) Once we were in her room, she closed the door and posted herself, wheelchair and all, right in front of it.”

What we don’t get in the above passage is inner monologue or reflection. It’s pure action, and the action develops both the character of Mary and her grandmother.

Next up? Gogol. I know, huh? From Dead Souls. The main character has just entered a grand ballroom.

“Everything was flooded with light and black frock coats kept flashing by, singly and in clusters, like flies on a gleaming white sugar loaf on a sultry July day as an elderly housekeeper breaks it into shimmering splinters in front of an open window: the curious children  gather to watch the movements of her roughened hands as they lift the mallet while the soaring squadrons of flies, riding in on the light air, land boldly as if they owned the place, and taking advantage of the old woman’s poor sight and her being blinded still further by the sun, scatter over the tasty pieces, here singly, there in heaps.”

Tell us how you feel about the ball, huh Gogol? Count the prepositions. Can we get away with a passage like this, part metaphor, part simile? I say yes, because we still get a feeling for how the main character sees the ball and we’re locked into the theme, which is this big-city stranger dropping in to dance with country folk.


7 responses to “Literary Mash Time!

  1. Yeah. I can just see me submitting that Gogol one and the inevitable reactions. Maybe one day I will find my needle.

    I hope you are doing well. I am never on Facebook, and I feel like I have lost touch with so many people. (Although it is hard to feel connected when one must ever be on the hunt for the needle in the midst of all the noise.)

    Michael has a new job. I am the same. Well, maybe angrier, but otherwise…….We almost went to CA this month, and I was looking forward to seeing Sarah and Graham.


    It is good to see a post from you. If you have time, I would love to hear how things are with you.

    • Hi Andra! Nice to hear from you. CA would have been nice, huh? That’s funny. I guess new jobs breed anger. Same with Matt! Ha. You are welcome in Denver any time, however, we are having 90s weather. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  2. A fascinating pairing of metaphoric images through the centuries. Have not read ‘The Liars Club,’ and the picture of those ‘orange sausage casings’ is as vivid as it gets. It’s been quite some time since I read ‘Dead Souls’ and your singling out of a passage that is, yes, part metaphor/part simile has me very intrigued. If I can track down my copy, I’m going to take a look at the bigger picture — the paragraphs before and after — for some context. Think about, though — a character enters a ballroom and flies enter his mind.

  3. Yes, Deborah! It is quite amazing to use the extended fly metaphor. No matter what, we sense a buzzing activity that’s not necessarily glamorous.

  4. The Gogol passage would never fly in my YA world, but I do love a good metaphor or simile. Loved the Mary Karr selection!

  5. **like flies on a gleaming white sugar loaf on a sultry July day as an elderly housekeeper breaks it into shimmering splinters in front of an open window:**

    —Can we get away with a passage like this, part metaphor, part simile?—

    When one writes like this, he/she can get away w/ most anything!

    Don’t you agree? xx

    ps. Oh, and I love Mary Karr.

  6. I like the short drop-in on what you’re reading and the way you took the time to tell us why these sentences caught your attention. Nice post. ps–the more I write, the less I read…

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