practice

14 Nov

I’ve decided that if ever want to get anywhere with anything that involves writing stuff, I am going to have to work on my metaphors and similes. They are all as hackneyed as a London-based transportation system.

Some people have a serious knack for spinning a metaphor or simile that really does catch what they mean without them having to explain it. I always get caught up in the analogy and want to show people *why* such and such is like such and such another. The trick is obviously to say something that is sufficiently evocative that no further chat is needed.
So, as an example. I’ve been listening, recently, to the new(ish) Regina Spektor Album called ‘What we saw from the cheap seats’, which is a pleasing title to me because it sounds – well, I don’t know. It sounds like she’s on our side and she’s with us, and we’re all sitting in the cheap seats together eating popcorn and being a little bit rowdy but essentially having a good time. Or something. Anyway. Usually when I listen to a new album of something it’s because I’ve heard one or maybe two songs from it and I think I’ll give the rest of it a go. So in this case, I had heard the song ‘How’ and really liked it, thus off I went trawling Grooveshark, youtube etc for the rest of the songs. And there’s this one called ‘Firewood’, which is excellent, and then there’s another one called ‘ The Party’.
Now ‘The Party’ opens with the lines:
You’re like a party
Somebody threw me
You taste like Thursday
You look like New Year
You’re like a big parade through town
you leave such a mess
but you’re so fun
So. Perhaps on first sight this doesn’t look like Grammy-award-winning stuff. BUT. I contest that analogically (?) this is genius. Someone is ‘like a party’. Ok, so we’re expecting this to mean – fun, loud, noisy etc. But – the tiny explanatory tag is not related to the nature of the noun, but to the way it is dependent on the verb (in later verses the person who is like a party changes to reflect more emphatically on what ‘throwing’ it does). Clever, huh? The reason they are like a party is kind of because they require someone else to be in charge and make it all happen. They get all the credit for being fun when actually it’s the chappy behind the scenes putting all the hard work in to get the show on the road. And this is all picked up nicely in the ‘parade through town’ bit. Good while it’s happening, but damn inconvenient once all the happy has worn off.
The bit I really like is the two-line middle section. You taste like Thursday. What does that even mean? How can a day have a taste? Well, as anyone who has a normal working week can tell you, Thursday is a delicious day. It really is. You have all the anticipation of it nearly being the weekend (so close!) without the frustration that Friday brings on that it’s not *quite* here yet. After Thursday, you have crested the peak of the week and you can career down the other side of the wave, and it doesn’t matter if you fall off the board at this point because you’ll wash up on the smooth beaches of the glory that is Saturday. Thursday is full of excited anticipation and contains very little realistic gloom or bitterness. That’s Friday. Friday tastes of frustration. Monday tastes of wasted time (‘all that weekend and I didn’t DO anything!’). Tuesday tastes of despair. Wednesday tastes of soap. Thursday – well, Thursday is great. I love Thursdays.
You look like New Year? Depends what your New Years look like, I suppose. And also whether you mean ‘the exact point at which the year becomes new’, or ‘a NYE party’ OR indeed, New Year’s day. All of which are very different looks, I posit. I think in this case it’s the second one that is meant. A New Year’s eve party (which encompasses, unless you’ve passed out and had to be put to bed, the first meaning also) is glitzy and OTT and contains more alcohol than is strictly necessary and more celebrating than seems really worthwhile considering what we are marking. How significant is a number rolling over, year after year? Why is it that a year is important? Wouldn’t it be more exciting if we reduced how often we celebrated, and had a party every five years or something like that? Anyway, the point is that it’s an arbitrary party. So that’s what the analogy is getting at. You look like an arbitrary party. Tacky and sticky from booze and glittery and having a really great time but almost certainly going to be suffering for it tomorrow.
Scroll up to the point where I start talking about this. That’s a whole lot of meaning to fit into a not very large amount of words. People talk about ‘not mincing words’ but I think that the opposite approach is needed if you’re going to squish this amount of stuff in. Mincing is economical. Mincing and grinding and seasoning to taste, then shaping, frying lightly and serving with a little sauce.
So I’m going to have to practice. Let me know if you think of any good ones for me to use, in my life, or in my writing.
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