On Drunk Pandas and the Art of Comparison

In every novel there’s generally at least one moment where the author drops the hammer and readers collectively gasp “Ooooooh, buuuurn”. The writer makes a devastating comparison that simultaneously brings the story to life, and makes you glad they’re laying it down on a character you’re reading about and not you.

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It’s a subtle art that, if misused, can drive the story into the ground. Stereotypical noir mystery novels, for example, can be guilty of hitting the simile/metaphor bottle a bit too hard when comparing femme fatales to various ripe fruit. The author thinks she’s a peach, I get it, but instead of caring about the plot line I crave fruit salad…or drift tangentially into thoughts about food allergies.

I recently finished reading A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, whose crotchety crank of a main character makes some of the most hilarious comparisons I’ve read in recent memory. Notice I don’t say author, though I realize the author created Ove, but the delivery of these thoughts makes it feel like it’s Ove talking, not Backman. I’ve never met Backman, but I know and love his character Ove.

Ove is an oddball to fall for. He hates his neighbor he calls “The Blond Weed” describing her as “an inebriated panda on heels as long as box wrenches, with clown paint all over her face and sunglasses so big that one can’t tell whether they’re a pair of glasses or some kind of helmet.” There are so many great lines like this throughout the book that I found myself laughing out loud, in the middle of the shop, and possibly not being as attentive to readers as I normally am (my apologies).

Ove himself doesn’t escape from hilarious simile either as Backman describes him at one point “wearing nothing but socks and underpants, with a three-quarter-century-old hunting rifle in his hands, [kicking] the door open like an aging, half-naked, suburban Rambo.” As misanthropic as Ove seems Backman also illustrates how passionately his main character loves with the same colorful descriptions.

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A Man Called Ove is a heartwarming book that I hope you will read and enjoy as much as I did. Be sure to stop in at the shop to pick up a copy, or share your favorite line with us if you’ve already read it. If nothing else A Man Called Ove includes loads of great similes that you can fling at other drivers in rush hour, or shower your loved ones with when you’re feeling generous.

Best wishes and happy reading!

Ruth

 

 

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