Re: RARA-AVIS: "Pretentious" metaphors

From: Mario Taboada (
Date: 17 Jan 2003

Undoubtedly, Ross Macdonald did abuse metaphor and simile in several of his Chandlerian novels (the first six mysteries, if I'm counting right). It's as bad in Macdonald as it is in Chandler -- were one to look at it objectively. But I cannot look objectively at Chandler. His writing has such hypnotic charm (alert) that he has me eating out of his hand (alert) like a (alert) just-adopted-puppy.

So yeah, we all know that heavy doses of metaphor can screw up and even spoil a writer's work; the miracle is that sometimes it doesn't.

Anecdotally, I have noticed that contemporary master Donald Westlake almost completely avoids metaphor and simile. In that, too, he is a Twain-Hemingway-Hammett disciple. And Elmore Leonard, a very different kind of master, is another who avoids those tricks. People don't talk like that, so why write like that? The modern reader has little patience.

Finally, the Chandlerian-style figures of speech should probably be retired from circulation in crime fiction.

Regards, and sorry for rambling.


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