A Few of my Favorite Similes

The walls here are as thin as a hoofer’s wallet.

Raymond Chandler, Playback

What is an individual thing? They roll
Like a drunken fingerprint across the sky!

Richard Wilbur, describing [a] landscape of small black birds in the poem An Event

After two months were gone and my classes were done, and although I still had not forgiven my mother, I decided to go home. I wasn’t crazy about the thought of seeing her, but our relationship was like a file we both sharpened on, and necessary in that way.

Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine

(Note: Now, for those of you thinking, “What’s a liberal humanist like you doing offering up a quote from a racist, misogynistic, anti-Semite like Raymond Chandler?” Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. It really won’t do to simply say that such prejudices were common in Chandler’s day. The glib answer would be that a great simile is a great simile, no matter who wrote it. (Even glibber answer, Hey, nobody’s perfect.) But the best I can offer are these words from one of my egg-headed heroes, the estimable Alfred Kazin discussing his ambivalent feelings for T.S. Elliot:

So it goes in a world where forever, it seems, Jews are regularly abominated and even demonized in works they cannot help admiring and whose authors they are proud to call friends. After a lecture I gave to a college audience, a non-Jewish professor gently reproached me for quoting with evident pleasure lines from Four Quartets. “How can you admire such an enemy of the Jews?” I replied that if I had to exclude anti-Semites, I would have little enough to read.)

by Richard W. Bray

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2 Responses to “A Few of my Favorite Similes”

  1. sirthanxsalot Says:

    Not sure who coined this
    It’s as quiet as (or so quiet you can hear) a mouse pissing on a cotton ball

  2. Laughter hope sock in the eye's Blog Says:

    […] much underappreciated masterpiece. An earlier post demonstrated that Erdrich is a master of the simile. Some more examples: Then the vest plunged down against her, so slick and plush that it was like […]

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