Tolstoy does not tell us how things look to the author; he tells us how they look to the characters. In short, he does not use simile and metaphor. (That astonishing assertion in Wood's review is what got me started reading Tolstoy in the first place. How can anyone write without using metaphor and simile? That would be like-never mind.)
The poet, however, uses these two crude, primitive, archaic forms of thought (simile and metaphor) in the most uninhibited way, because his job is not to describe nature, but to show you a world completely absorbed and possessed by the human mind.
The facts of nature are what they are, but we can only view them through the spectacles of our mind. Our mind works largely by metaphor and comparison, not always (or often) by relentless logic. When we are caught in conceptual traps, the best exit is often a change in metaphor - not because the new guideline will be truer to nature (for neither the old nor the new metaphor lies 'out there' in the woods), but because we need a shift to more fruitful perspectives, and metaphor is often the best agent of conceptual transition.
The beauty of a metaphor is it doesn't have to be real to ring true. The instant a metaphor becomes true it ceases to be a metaphor, which suggests a disconnect between truth and what's commonly referred to as reality.
Creativity is more about taking the facts, fictions, and feelings we store away and finding new ways to connect them. What we're talking about here is metaphor. Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art, if it is not art itself. Metaphor is our vocabulary for connecting what we are experiencing now with what we have experienced before. It's not only how we express what we remember , it's how we interpret it - for ourselves and others.
Very Like a Whale One thing that literature would be greatly the better for Would be a more restricted employment by authors of simile and metaphor. Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts, Can'ts seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have to go out of their way to say that it is like something else. What foes it mean when we are told That the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold? In the first place, George Gordon Byron had had enough experience To know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it was a lot of Assyrians. However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and thus hinder longevity, We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity. Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold, Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a wolf on the fold? In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy there are a great many things, But i don't imagine that among then there is a wolf with purple and gold cohorts or purple and gold anythings. No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this Assyrian was actually like a wolf I must have some kind of proof; Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big red mouth and big white teeth and did he say Woof woof? Frankly I think it very unlikely, and all you were entitled to say, at the very most, Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian cohorts about to destroy the Hebrew host. But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no, he had to invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolate them, With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiers to people they say Oh yes, they're the ones that a lot of wolves dressed up in gold and purple ate them. That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time by poets, from Homer to Tennyson; They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison, And they always say things like that the snow is a white blanket after a winter storm. Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket of snow and I'll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical blanket material and we'll see which one keeps warm, And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly, What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.
Mathematics, which most of us see as the most factual of all sciences, constitutes the most colossal metaphor imaginable, and must be judged, aesthetically as well as intellectually in terms of the success of this metaphor.
The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor; it is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in the dissimilar.
Sometimes I think that creativity is a matter of seeing, or stumbling over, unobvious similarities between things-like composing a fresh metaphor, but on a more complex scale. One night in Hiroshima it occurred to me that the moon behind a certain cloud formation looked very like a painkiller dissolving in a glass of water. I didn't work toward that simile, it was simply there: I was mugged, as it were, by the similarity between these two very different things. Literary composition can be a similar process. The writer's real world and the writer's fictional world are compared, and these comparisons turned into text. But other times literary composition can be a plain old slog, and nothing to do with zones or inspiration. It's world making and the peopling of those worlds, complete with time lines and heartache.