Thursday, 28 March 2013

Mixed Metaphors Part 8

The President called for warmer ties. (Woollen, knitted? Closer ties are needed.)

“If you open that Pandora's Box, you never know what Trojan Horses will jump out." Ernest Bevin wins Mixed Metaphor of the Day. (Daniel Trilling /@trillingual)

The thin end of a slippery slope, set the applecart among the pigeons, different kettle of worms, these are not your daddy’s usual suspects. (via @petmori/Peter Morley, @WillWiles, @StottR/Rory Stott)

We are, I suppose, those sharp-shouldered middle-class parents who think they can nag and badger their way into a decent school. (Tim Lott, G Mar 2013 It’s sharp elbows you need to get to the front of a queue.)

They felt hemmed in by the shackles of society.

Finally ignites a cacophonous backlash. (FT Jan 2013)

Lynch finds $1bn pot of gold to spark new wave of technology (Times, Feb 2013)

It’s hard to have an intelligent conversation on that sort of playing field. (Play a fair game?)

"We've created a treadmill, it's usually the mother that is orchestrating all of that and doing all the driving." (Claire Perry quoted by Will Wiles)

UKIP woman says religion is a key pillar that holds society together. (@MikeHypercube, Feb 2013)

“In the second half of the 19th cent the English artistic pantechnicon was grinding through the gear shifts of aestheticism and pre-Raphaelitism in the search for a new language… Lillie Langtry got used to the blaze of publicity that illuminated her every move. If the public saw her in a certain way she played on it, blinding them with the mirror-dazzle of the star they had imagined. She learnt that she could hide her real self behind it like an eclipse.” If you can follow that, then your astrophysics is better than mine. (Matthew Sweet in The Independent reviews Lillie Langtry by Laura Beatty)

Lionel Shriver on Vow by Wendy Plump (Guardian, March 9 2013)

It isn't just the thud of the insultingly self-evident: "In the end, I think you either cheat or you don't," or the over-obvious emotional arithmetic: an unmarried lover shoulders the guilt more easily "because he is betraying a stranger rather than the person to whom he gave a lifelong vow". It isn't just the bland faux-profundities: "We all break in the same human way" – or the self-help clichés: "I was good at compartmentalisation." It's the metaphors.

Mixed, inapt, overextended, or plain ghastly, these clunkers are hardly the stuff of occasional lapse, because they are everywhere. "I was born on the windy side of the personality island." Or, "I want sex to pierce reality and come blazing out the other side." Or, "I could no longer manage the tilt of our marriage. It drifted out of my control, its tides caught up and dictated by Bill's grief."... It gets worse. In a new infatuation, a "hot mix of smashing atoms" generates "an unpredictable plasma". When the author laid eyes on a lover, "the immediate sensation was of some soft, squirrely creature rolling around in my rib cage". Plump made use of the "Tao" of infidelity by "squeezing that logic like a cheese". It's a contest, but in the end this one takes the prize: a friend took a position in relation to Bill's treachery, "A position that I would like to pass on now that the egg white has passed through the eggshell and I can see the wisdom of it." Hey, Heston Blumenthal, I want to see it in real time.

The author is no better at coining snappy analogies. For the adulterer, thou-shalt-not condemnations are "about as useful as throwing spring onions at a charging wolf." Indeed, so ineffectual must hurling spring onions be in this circumstance that it's doubtful anyone has ever tried it…
The point is: the writing matters. This isn't a typically low-rent guilty pleasure. There's no pleasure. The story remains inert. The harder the author tries to elevate her hard-won lessons into wise generalities, the less her story comes alive and the less she actually has to say. Thus the text is not only wince-inducing but, despite its titillating premise, dull. Given the wretched quality of the prose, it's tempting to blame the editor – unless the original manuscript was even worse and this is the cleaned-up version (which beggars belief). And yet the subject of infidelity is wholly worthy of scrutiny, encompassing as it does the most searing of emotions: the horror of lying, rage at being lied to; disappointment in a spouse, or even more devastating, disappointment in oneself. But if that's the palette that appeals, reread Anna Karenina.

Mixed Metaphors Part 7, and links to 1-6.

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