On Monday, I finished the final draft of my next book, I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World (published by HarperCollins on February 8, 2011, since you asked…). Listening to the radio this morning, I was struck (the use of ‘struck’ in this sense is a metaphor, by the way; I was not physically assaulted while listening) by the conversation about the new tower, designed by Anish Kapoor, to be constructed in London in time for the 2012 Olympics. In discussing the object, the presenter and guests came up with all sorts of lovely metaphors, just as everyone who has talked or written about it over the past 24 hours has done. Kapoor’s design has been called
a demented trumpet
a twisted G clef
a sisha pipe, or Hubble Bubble
an arterial shape … with vaguely intestinal tubes
You can see a picture of the design here; feel free to send along your own metaphors for it.
The effort to describe this unusual building/sculpture is an excellent example of why metaphor is essential in daily life. We can only come to understand the unknown by comparing it with what is already known, and metaphor is the way we have invented to do this. The paradox and beauty of metaphor is that we can only comprehend what something is but describing what it is not.