Weird Metaphors

Throughout this first semester of American Literature, a pair of bizarre metaphors have stuck with me for their singular strangeness.  Good figures of speech work because they connect a new experience with a familiar one.  “Walking through the fetid jungle was like trying to swim through a soaking wet wool blanket,” for example.  Never been to the jungle?  That’s OK, because we can all imagine being swamped by a wet blanket.  It’s like that. 

In a famous scene in Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab admits that the white whale had bitten off his leg; Ahab savagely wails and screams the fact, “with a terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose.” 

So, how exactly did Ahab sound when he crazily lamented the loss of his leg to the whale?  Well, he sounded like a moose when his girlfriend trots away, or something.  You know.  That sound.

Oh.  Because we’ve all spent time in Alaska with lovelorn wildlife. 

Melville’s contemporary Edgar Allan Poe was even more esoteric.  Continue reading

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Edgar Allan Poe Writes Real Estate Ads

After teaching Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” last week, in which he wallows in every chance to describe the building in as much awful detail as possible, I wondered how such skills would carry over to the modern world of real estate advertising.  Thus, this, with obvious material lifted straight from the story:

FOR SALE. 4 bed, 2 bath, spacious lot. Bleak walls, vacant eyelike windows, rank sedges, decayed trees. Good starter home.

AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY. 2100 sq. ft. Black and lurid tarn w/ precipitous brink and ghastly tree stems. Also, HOA dues.

Ranch house, gated neighborhood, close to schools, w/ a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, leaden-hued. A fixer upper.

Downtown duplex to rent. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled webwork from the eaves; no masonry fallen! No smokers.

Retail/office space available. A wild inconsistency between perfect adaptation of parts, crumbling individual stones. Reminds one of a long neglected vault. A barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the front of the roof of the building in front, makes its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it becomes lost in the sullen waters of the tarn. Zoned for commercial operation.

Cozy bungalow for sale. Carvings on ceiling, somber tapestries, ebon blackness on floors, phantasmagoric armorial trophies rattle. Take the virtual tour online!

Condo units for lease. Large and lofty. Windows long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance from the black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessible from within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light make their way through the trellised panes. Accented by vaulted and fretted ceiling. Fully furnished: profuse, comfortless, antique, tattered. Many books and musical instruments lay scattered about. College students preferred, pets OK.

Don’t miss upcoming mansion open house! Good for close family. Contact Usher Realty. Some remodeling needed.