1

For this text:

I’m about to knock on the glass, but your laptop screen glows into life: Suddenly here’s our son’s hazy face, bringing you news from across the ocean.

It seems that "glows into life" is used in two ways at the same time:

  1. The laptop screen lights up, bringing the narrator back into the reality and life. Because of what the narrator has described in the beginning of this novel, it makes someone feel like the narrator is in a very good place, such as fairyland or heaven.

  2. The laptop screen lights up, becoming alive like a human being.

Is this an example of wordplay on the part of the author?

Excerpted from David Mitchell's novel The Gardener:

Through the kitchen double-doors I watch you eating supper – carrot and coriander soup – and leafing through Country Living Magazine, dreaming of houses uncluttered by reality, by half a lifetime of memories, perhaps. But my, how well you look. White hair endows you with the demeanour of a friendly witch. Our geriatric radio – a wedding-present from my brother – is twittering away to itself. I’m about to knock on the glass, but your laptop screen glows into life: and suddenly here’s our son’s hazy face, bringing you news from across the ocean. What a world. He’s just had scrambled eggs and tomatoes for breakfast, he says, his course is just awesome.

  • I accept your interpretation, and would consider it nifty wordplay. Whether or not that wordplay was intended by the author, though, or merely coincidental, is hard to say for sure. – J.R. Aug 17 '13 at 0:11
3

Both are really nice ways of interpreting that phrase!

Unfortunately, the phrase "glows into life" is much more commonly used than that. It tends to be applied to monitors, televisions and other screens, simply in the fact that a screen that's turned off appears to be "dead", and switching it on brings it "back to life". This phrase is best applied to the old CRT monitors, which would start off as dim when first switched on, but slowly became brighter and brighter.

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