Archive for Trouble is my Business

A simile is like a metaphor

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , on January 8, 2013 by dcairns


Raymond Chandler and some kind of animal, possibly an elephant, I’m no expert.

I finished the Raymond Chandler short story collection Spanish Blood, which I inherited from my late pal Lawrie. Or else I borrowed it from him and hadn’t returned it yet when he died, I forget which. The book is old and has mainly turned to vanilla dust. But still readable — highly readable. Every one of the stories might make a good movie.

While Pearls are a Nuisance takes a screwball comedy approach to the pulp detective racket, Trouble is my Business is playful but still just about serious. Still, it has fun with the idea of a detective who solves the case but still gets beaten up or outsmarted by just about everyone he meets, while putting away enough Scotch to pickle a beluga.

Chandler is smart enough to keep his brilliant similes in check just enough (Mark Gattis, take note!) — and he mixes things up with metaphors and sort of indefinable but hilarious word-images like “a pale thin clerk with one of those mustaches that get stuck under your fingernail.” It also struck me that his similes are so grotesque, one could swap them around randomly and they’d still sort of work. Here are a few where the subject and object have been shuffled — see if you can rearrange them into the original intended sequence ~

Her cheeks were as soft as

a rolled umbrella.

She was sitting behind a black glass desk that looked like


She was smoking a cigarette in a black holder that was not quite as long as

a basket ball.

His face, what I could see of it, looked about the size of

Napoleon’s tomb.

His humming sounded like

an old lady with too many parcels.

It rose as softly as

a sick baby.

She wore a small cockeyed hat that hung on her ear like

a cat in a strange house.

I moved around slowly, like

an amputated leg.

A bruise on the back of my head and another on my jaw, neither of them larger than

the mercury in a thermometer.

He had an idea and he was holding it like

a Yakima apple.

Throwing his voice over his shoulder as if it were

a cigar-store Indian.

We went in so close together we must have looked like

a butterfly.

A huge oval mirror with a rounded surface that made me look like

a cow being sick.

He was as wooden-faced as

a three-decker sandwich.

A shiny black bug […] wobbled as it crawled, like

a pygmy with water on the brain.

I felt bad. I felt like

a coil of rope.

Or, for maximum hilarity, just read all of the set-ups and sub in “an amputated leg.” Works every time!