Now That’s a Simile

These days I’m re-reading Raymond Chandler’s masterpiece, The Long Good-bye.

I do this as I’m nearing the completion of my own book; I don’t avoid fiction as some writer’s do to avoid being overly influenced but knowingly read books I want to be influenced by.

In this case it’s mostly four books I read and re-read to try to get a better sense of the tone and style; The Silence of the Lambs, Jeff Vandermeer’s FINCH, In The Woods by Tana French, and the aforementioned The Long Good-bye.

Which brings us to Mr. Chandler’s similes. I remember listening to this part of the audiobook and being struck by the sheer quality of his setting and tone.

“Please don’t get up,” she said in a voice like the stuff they use to line summer clouds with.

I drove back to Hollywood feeling like a short length of chewed string. It was too early to eat and too hot. I turned on the fan in my office. It didn’t make the air any cooler, just a little more lively. Outside on the boulevard the traffic brawled endlessly. Inside my head thoughts stuck together like flies on paper.

An hour crawled by like a sick cockroach. I was a grain of sand on the desert of oblivion. I was a two-gun cowpoke fresh out of bullets.

Reymond Chandler, The Long Good-bye.

Chandler writes this way seemingly without effort, and they always set that noir-ish tone so beautifully. The book itself is structured a little unusually and contains some Dickensian-level coincidences, but is absolutely worth it for the tone and style alone.

Now I’m curious. Do you consciously read for influence, as I do, or do you avoid similar works altogether so as not to be overly influenced?

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