"In argument similes are like songs in love; they describe much, but prove nothing." - Frank Kafka
I think I do some of my best thinking while reading other peoples' blogs. A couple of days ago I was defending Indies over at RG's place and, as a result, picked a book back up that I'd set down several weeks before in disgust. See, it's a "normal" book, one that's written by a guy who's earned a "#1 NYT Bestselling Author" on the cover, a book that has on its spine the G/C insignia of an imprint of the Hachette Group, a Big 6 publisher.
I'm on page 44 of the book; I've smacked it down once already due to a crappy premise and underdeveloped, stupid characters. But my reading pile was low, and I was curious to remind myself how bad the "good" side of writing can be, so I gave it another try. Thus, on page 44, I began again: "Between the two chairs and [the other one] was a three-foot-wide wall of four-inch polycarbonate glass that ran from floor to ceiling."
Whoa. How in the heck do you get a three-foot-wide wall made of glass that's four inches thick? Okay, sure, you can laminate nine panes together, but that makes it tough to conduct an interview through. And why would you do that to polycarbonate glass, anyway?
Was the editor paying attention? I suspect, not.
Then: "He was six foot eight and extremely lean, like a giant number two pencil." Oh, come on! *sound of book slamming shut* That's a simile I'd expect to read in a spoof, not a real story.
I like similes, generally. A well-done simile caresses the page like a silken sheet over a lover's body--revealing just enough, but not too much. And smooth, always smooth.
"Like a giant number two pencil" ain't smooth. And neither is the brandest-newest hardback-sized divot on the surface of my wall.
That got me to thinking, though, about some of the good, and the bad, similes of our time. Stuff like:
"A day without sunshine is, like, you know, night." - Steve Martin
"A book without words is like love without a kiss; it's empty." - Andrew Wolfe (which brings to question the adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" when considering that the only books I've ever seen without words are picture books--are they really empty, or worth a thousand words per picture?)
"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain
"The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't." - Anonymous, but brilliant, in a very, very un-smooth sort of way. I'd never put that in a serious work of prose, certainly, but it's fun to read on Facebook.
So, anyway, what's your favorite simile or metaphor?