So. Here, a priest is on a ten-kilometer walk down a dirt road. It gets extremely windy. And then:
An infestation of tiny black beetles numerous as raindrops roamed the gusts and sailed past.
So there you have it. That is a great sentence. It isn't raining, see, but the beetles are creating a kind of rain. But he doesn't use a simile for it--"beetles fell like raindrops," or "beetles flew throught the air like rain"--instead, he says they're numerous as raindrops, thus telling you how many there are while putting the idea of rain into your head. That is a high-level bit of technique right there. Okay, and then the beetles, they're not just allowing the wind to carry them. They're trying to fly, right?--so he has to try to describe the way the beetles are flying, but really they are being blown more than they're flying, but they are still flying.
roamed the gusts
That is just perfect. They're good with this, the beetles--they're riding in the wind and flying around within it. It's all of a piece. They roamed the gusts and sailed past.
That's the kind of sentence that separates great writers from competent ones. It isn't fancy, it isn't "impressive," it isn't trying to prove anything. It is just saying this one particular thing as eloquently and efficiently as possible. It packs the words with more meaning than they look like they can hold. The book is full of sentences like that, which is why it's taking some time for me to get through it...it's very rich. But it's very, very good.
An aside, too: Rhian just emailed me this reminiscence of W6 hero Stanley Elkin by writer Abby Frucht. You might check it out.