Quote: The disappearing body quickly became shorthand. Anything lost was considered pocketed by our ambulatory corpse on its way home. Unexpected noises in the corridors were the incompetent creeping of the revenant.
This is China Miéville’s disappearing body from The Design, published in his collection of short stories Three Moments of an Explosion. A body has disappeared from the dissection room where medical students study anatomy, and we are hearing about the atmosphere that developed thereafter. A morbid setting, but these are students of medicine, who have learned, perforce, to joke about their environment.
What makes the Quote quiver?
Deadpan delivery of compressed paradox.
In English: we got told straight up that, of all the things a body could become, it became shorthand. Not even a hand, but something a hand produces. Nonsensical, until we reach sentences two and three, which elaborate the point using compressed paradoxes about a corpse with a volition and an eye for the shiny item.
What is at the core of the Quote?
Metaphor and oxymoron.
The students started using the body as shorthand, as a metaphor, for anything strange that happened.
The two other sentences contain oxymorons, compressed paradoxes where two seemingly opposing words are placed together, like ambulatory corpse, and in slightly extended form, a corpse that pockets, creeps, and is incompetent. Oh and the corpse has a home to go to. Very important.
Humour in life: also very important.