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What do you think the author Kevin Barry meant when he says fattening light in this given context:

It was by now a hysterical downpour, with great sheets of water steaming down from Mweelrea, and the harbor roared in the fattening light. Visibility was reduced to fourteen feet. This all signalled that the West of Ireland holiday season had begun.

Does it mean as something like "fertilizing"?

This is the link to the full story I'm referring to, "Fjord of Killary" in the The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/02/01/fjord-of-killary

  • I can only guess, but the word choice makes me think of raindrops on a window at night. As lights go by the refractive properties of the drops make light seem to swell as it passes through the lens of the drop. I have never heard the phrase before. – Lumberjack Jan 15 '15 at 20:24
  • This reminds me of a friend's theory that she can eat food illuminated solely by the light of the refrigerator without any risk of it being fattening. – Erik Kowal Jan 16 '15 at 6:08
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Fatten here is a literary usage in the sense of broadening or increasing (1 and 3 in AHD):

  1. To make plump or fat.
  2. To fertilize (land).
  3. To increase the amount or substance of: fatten one's bank account.

Earlier, the speaker describes the breaking of dawn:

…the sky had shucked the last of its evening gray to take on an intense purplish tone…

Now it is sunrise, and the light of the day is increasing. More literally, one could read it as saying the sunlight is expanding from a band across the horizon to the whole sky, but since "it was by now a hysterical downpour," that seems unlikely to be visible. Attendant to the increase in light is an increase in richness, as our eyes perceive more details and more color, and richness is also evoked by referring to fattening.

It's not at all a common formulation— the only other place I could find it is in some Internet poetry— and I can't think of anyone who would actually speak this way.

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