fort, dreiser, metaphor


According to Jim Steinmeyer’s perceptive and entertaining new biography, “Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural” (Tarcher/Penguin: 332 pp., $24.95), some of the 25,000 metaphors found their way into his tenement-based pulp fiction and “The Outcast Manufacturers” (1909), his only novel. A sailor’s forehead has “[e]xactly five wrinkles in it, as if it had been pressing upon banjo strings.” One woman possesses a “nose like a tiny model of a subway entrance; nostrils almost perpendicular and shaped like the soles of tiny feet.” Steinmeyer writes that Fort would often tinker with the metaphor as it was unfolding, as if “continually whispering into the reader’s ear”: “[S]he flushed a little — flushes like goldfish in an aquarium, fluttering in her globe-like, colorless face — goldfish in a globe of milk, perhaps — or goldfish struggling in a globe of whitewash, have it.”

Of these metaphors, Dreiser wrote: “It was amazing, the force or beauty of these sentences.” But Fort would soon burn this priceless hoard, as he turned from fiction to a new sort of writing, requiring the assembly of a different kind of hoard.

more from The LA Times here.