Saturday, March 14, 2009

Our Lady of the Metaphors

My Facebook buddy, Maximilian Loh, tagged me on his note to share this wondrous classic of overwriting (Click to enlarge to readable size.) :
Because bad writing has to be shared. And pointed-and-laughed at. ... This has to be the worst description of a person/character that I have ever come across, in fiction or not. Hopefully, you'll have as many laughs as I did while reading this.
The original blog entry is here on vadonavan's page on Live Journal and stirred up a lot of comment ... and even some attempts to paint a portrait of the character described, including this one dubbed Our Lady of the Metaphors.

The extract is taken from is the second volume of a fantasy tetralogy Bronwyn : Silk and Steel by one Ron Miller. It managed to muster one and a half stars on

Arthur C. Clarke is quoted as saying of it :
Ron Miller is unfairly talented.
Though he was probably talking about Miller's ability to cause enormous mirth.

Silk and Steel deserves to become a cult classic ... and I desperately want a copy!


Anonymous said...

While we're on that subject, I thought I'd share this hilarious Billy Collins poem:


You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.

There is just no way you are the pine-scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley,
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I am not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and --somehow -- the wine.



Drachen said...

Maybe that's why it's hard to get people to read. Those with short attention spans will chuck the book away. (Myself included.)

bibliobibuli said...

just wonderful, Preeta! i thank you very much for it

Drachen - but i bet you wouldn't have felt that if the passage was well written. some times the fact that a book isn't readable just isn't our fault!

bibliobibuli said...

afterthought Preeta - doesn't shakespeare do just this in his "shall i compare thee to a summer's day" sonnet? - take a cliched metaphor and unpack it beautifully

Baronhawk said...

The book that started the topic sounds iffy, but the Litany that Preeta brought seems to be an intentional parody.

My two cents, is that it is about the proper and judicious use of metaphors. You pick a theme and stick to it. Don't get overboard.

Like a painter with colours. You don't use too many, and not one that clash to intensely with each other, unless you are creating that surreal effect intentionally. The general rule of thumb is not to run riot with you colour scheme.

Yup Shakespeare is good at that, he would pick a metaphor to highlight a quality and do it well, not excessively but sloshing just about enough to get us high and drunk on his words without causing a hangover thereafter.

The book in question not only causes a hangover but overloads one's literary senses literally. One really feel like reading it the riot act and giving it the chop. Off with its binding!

The Litany does this too but it seems intentional and sarcastic even as it does so.

Anonymous said...

Yes, definitely, Baronhawk, "Litany" is an intentional parody :-) . I've seen Billy Collins read it live and it's quite a wry performance -- crowd-pleasing, though!

True what you say about "Shall I compare thee," Sharon.... That Will knew what he was doing!

-- Preeta

Damyanti said...

Here are two lines from from Toni Morrison's "Sula":

Shadrack rose and returned to the cot, where he fell into the first sleep of his new life. A sleep deeper than the hospital drugs; deeper than the pits of plums, steadier than the condor's wing; more tranquil than the curve of eggs.

I like the unusual, yet casual use of metaphors here. Even though they seem excessive when taken out of context, in the novel they make perfect sense.

Shadrack is a 20 year-old soldier in World War I who thinks he is dead for quite some time before realizing he is alive. It is then that he falls asleep.

Drachen said...

Sharon, maybe I'm a product of the times when everything moves quickly. I don't like to be led by the nose on a meandering wild goose chase. Unless, of course, it's through a delightful landscape. The challenge is to make the journey as good as the destination.

bibliobibuli said...

that toni morrison line i think is very effective - like a little prose poem. love the images of the pit of plums and the condors eggs. very fresh.

Damyanti said...

Sharon, her entire book is like a prose poem.

I can't stop thinking about it, and made a post on my blog yesterday just in order to gush. What I'm really overwhelmed by is that the book not only has good writing, but a fantastic story as well.

I'm dying to read Morrison's "Beloved" and "A Mercy".

Yusuf Martin said...

Hey don't knock it at least it was published - there has been much worse writing published in Malaysia, at least this person can write and the editors have left cohesive sentences which is more than I can say for some editors..........

Drachen said...

I suppose when some writers have a certain quota of words to meet, they pad their books like you stuff a turkey. :-)

Anonymous said...

I've never before heard of a writer having a "quota of words" to meet for a book. I don't think any reputable publishing house would impose such a quota -- in fact, the tendency would be in the opposite direction, towards shortening a book, because readers' attention spans have shortened while publishing costs per page have risen.

-- Preeta

Drachen said...

Good to know that, Preeta! :-)