Brian Aldiss: master of metaphor
by Jennifer Bryce
Maybe this is a grandiose claim, and I am referring to only one book by Aldiss. But, as I read Comfort Zone, his novel published in 2013, when he would have been 88, I found that I was picking out more favourite phrases and metaphors than usual. So I decided to write something in the ‘Writing’ category of my blog, rather than a book review. As I read, I kept saying to myself, this man who at the time had been writing books for more than 60 years, really knows how to write.
I took a little while to get into this book, in which we are confined by the daily routines of an 80 year-old man living in a village on the outskirts of Oxford. But the writing is beautiful, with an underlying wit and honesty about what it’s like to be shuffling around in your eighties. At one point Aldiss finds the need to jump into the text and tell us that the main character, Justin, isn’t him. In parallel with coping with life: the end of a love affair, an adult disabled son, the need for a medley of medications, Justin works on a thesis about the evils done by religions in the world today and the suggestion that everything is governed by chance.
Some metaphors and phrases that I particularly liked are:
windows with their pouting sills (page 8)
complaint crept in like a hungry slug among lettuces
a woman of bustling corpulence
the summit of Justin’s happiness
[a face] alight with anger
his rickety old voice
his … voice clogged with a junket of hope and dread
[a] tumbledown man
the suited man whinnied with laughter