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"To me, literature is something much more alive. More like a barrel of eels. When a writer creates a new eel, it wriggles its way into the barrel, muscles a path into the great teeming mass from which it came in the first place. It's a new eel, but it shares its eelness with all those other eels that are in the barrel or have ever been in the barrel."

The above quotation is from Thomas C. Foster's How To Read Literature Like a Professor—the detail with which he describes the analogy leads me to believe it isn't one whose meaning is well-known or obvious. What is an appropriate expression for describing an environment whose elements are distinct, but closely related and complementary, that needs no explanation?

  • I think the analogy was meant to be self-referencing. i.e. it is an example of what it describes. – Cascabel Apr 23 at 13:39
  • It's a wonder that anyone delves into literature with analogies like that. – Jim Apr 23 at 17:15
  • @Jim The guy is a "perfesser", but still waiting to publish his first novel, like the rest of us. – Cascabel Apr 23 at 20:25
  • I'm more used to hearing a barrel of monkeys. (But I don't think the passage was intended to reference the common expression.) – Jason Bassford Apr 26 at 1:39

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