letter bomb

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 20 18:12:51 UTC 2010

I thought the connection was feeble, as "postal" is already a part of a
secondary metaphor that has become idiomatic (going postal)--metaphor
borne out by the cover art (resembling the US Post eagle with a machine
gun in his talons). The group seems to be more imaginative than the
reviewer, who fails to mention the connection anywhere else in the
review--even when discussing one of the songs ("Female Postman") than is
already endowed with such a connection. Furthermore, the reviewer failed
to mention an *obvious* "letter bomb" connection, as this was the title
of a Circle Jerks song. But, if you're willing to give the writer credit
on this, I have no problem with it.

But my point stands. Metaphorical use of "letter bomb" is not uncommon.
You can start with Beck's lyrics in Soul of a Man:

> Beat my bones against the wall
> Staring down an empty hall
> Deep down in a hollow log
> Coming home like a letter bomb

Here's another.

> Kesey's Jail Journal, for which I contributed an introduction, is a
> sumptuously oversized hardback volume of commingled writings and
> artwork that Kesey produced during his six-month sojourn in the San
> Mateo (CA) county slam in the late 1960s. It's a stunner, friends;
> lots of vibrant, full-color plates of cosmically illuminated,
> psychedelically-inspired manuscript, each page (as I wrote in the
> introduction) "so crammed with words and colors and faces and forms
> that it seem[s] *ready to explode in your face like a letter bomb*,";
> Kesey demonstrating a dozen times on every page that everything he
> touched turned into art.

And just keep going.

Originally published in the April/May 1995 issue of Boston Review
> But they will not find it easy to follow in Tarantino's tracks. His
> film is put together with touch, spin, and nuance, and then goes off
> in your face like a letter bomb.

Monogram Theme Weddings
> Now that you have some ideas for using monograms in your wedding,
> remember: the essence of elegance is restraint. You don't want it to
> look like a letter bomb went off, so choose a few features ... then stop.

Ian McEwan Website: Mother Tongue, 2001
> She never owned the language she spoke. Her displacement within the
> intricacies of English class, and the uncertainty that went with it,
> taught her to regard language as something that might go off in her
> face, like a letter bomb.

 From cover quotes on Margaret Gibson's Opium Dreams
> “Occasionally, you come across a novel that goes off in your head like
> a letter bomb, a warning from a stranger; a shock of tremendous
> intensity. Opium Dreams is such a book....A brilliant and moving book
> that expresses a profound humanity....” —Ottawa Citizen

Peter Muilenburg
November 2008 editorial
Daysail Dog
> He bore it testily in the manner of one who suffers a fool. They kept
> it up, almost edging him off the dock, ignoring his warning
> growls—‘til suddenly he exploded like a letter bomb in their faces, a
> black tornado with a blood-curdling snarl and a blur of snapping teeth.

Concord Music Group/Fantasy Records
Cover Notes for Bukowski Reads His Poetry
> Like Thelonious Monk, another spiky American Original, Charles
> Bukowski was sui generis. Bukowski's writing, whether poetry or
> fiction, hit like a letter bomb.

Shadow Without a Name
Ignacio Padilla (tr. by Peter Bush, Anne McLean)
Macmillan, 2004
> At least Fraester had been able to enjoy the baron's money for a time,
> whereas we felt our very existence menaced by the possession of a
> manuscript which burned my hands like a letter bomb.

And I only searched for a narrow string. The reason I put in the
original link to The Postals review was because it was conveniently in
the current news, but there are quite a few broader examples. There is
one identifiable trend--"like a letter bomb" is something that is
[metaphorically] explosive and close to the person, i.e., something that
might "explode" in his or her hands or "in her face". Others simply use
it to describe a generic explosive effect, like something that scatters
pieces randomly, for example. In most cases, there is simply no reason
to identify with a letter bomb any more than any other explosive (or a
dropped water balloon, or an egg, for that matter).

My point is that the "letter bomb" has entered our collective conscience
(and the lexicon) and has replaced other creative references in the
mental queue. Like "quadriplegic" for "paraplegic", "letter bomb" is now
being used to describe any non-military targeted explosive and the
corresponding metaphors, without any regard for the original meaning.


On 2/20/2010 7:39 AM, Dan Goncharoff wrote:
> In this one case, I think you missed the point that the musicians being
> written about are called The Postals.
> DanG
> On 2/20/2010 4:34 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>> --
>> There is even broader metaphorical usage:
>> http://bit.ly/byV0lT
>> The Postals
>> By Robert Duffy
>> Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010
>> San Diego Reader
>>> San Diego punk quartet the Postals has finally signed, sealed, and
>>> delivered its debut, jamming 17 songs into 26 minutes. On opening, the
>>> incendiary instrumental "7.62 Madness" *goes off like a letter bomb*
>>> and sets the tone for the ensuing fallout.
>> [Why not "goes off like an IED"? Or not "goes off like a Connecticut
>> power plant"?]

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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