Thursday, September 27, 2007


The other day I went simile hunting. Although not as likely as conventional hunting to provide you with ingestible protein, simile hunting involves fewer loud bangs, less blood, and considerably less wearing of orange. Simile hunters can be fashion-forward: all that's required is for you to hitch up your pants, roll up your socks, and be ready to get your brain dirty.

This time the hunt was brief: the prey -ancient, familiar- wandered almost instantaneously into a synapse and was soon dangling by its haunches from the roof of my mouth. Like blood from a stone. That's exactly what it was like: like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

It, in this case, meant attempting to pry a letter of recommendation from the cold, dead, and most pertinently absent hands of my teacher. It took two months of email lead-up, one incidence of stalking, and three false deadlines to wrest it from her, not to mention a four-and-a-half hour chase at the finish.

But that's beside the point. What interests me now (as opposed to what interested me then, which bore a stronger resemblance to the tearing of hair and the gnashing of teeth) is my chosen simile. Specifically its decrepitude. Like blood from a stone: The comparison is so OLD. Blood and stones have been around since biblical times, and I'm sure people have been smashing them happily together ever since.

This is as opposed to the similes currently crowding the marketplace, with their close attention to everyday minutiae, their technological flair. There are so many points of comparison in today's world, a universe of correspondence. I'm reminded of when I read books set in the past, how limited the authors' language sometimes seems, how hobbled they can be -especially as they move further back in time- by their lack of metaphorical reach.

But here's the question: were there really fewer metaphors and similes Back Then? Or did they just get misplaced over the years, like socks in the dryer? We're used to thinking of the past -quite literally- in black and white; what if it was technicolor? Has our constellation of comparison really grown larger, or have we just lost the ability to see outlying stars?

I suppose I could force-feed myself some primary source material and find out.

Rocks. Hemoglobin. Nah.

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