Given the titans residing in the pantheon of aphoristsOscar Wilde, Karl Kraus, G.K. Chesterton, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierceit takes a writer of high self-regard or no sense of history to attempt a book of aphorisms. Or like poet, editor, musician, and Scotsman Don Paterson, who brings us Best Thought, Worst Thought: On Art, Sex, Work, and Death
(Graywolf Press), someone who does not take the task all that seriously:
The shorter the form, the greater our expectation of its significanceand the greater its capacity for disappointing us. A book of aphorisms is a lexicon of disappointments. The form’s only virtue is its brevity; at least the reader cannot seriously hold that it has wasted their time.
The aphorism is a brief waste of time. The poem is a complete waste of time. The novel is a monumental waste of time.
Then there is this:
His corpse was beyond such trifling repose as mere peace. He had left time and I could not help but reflect on the elegance of the move. Even my slow walk from the funeral parlor to the Tube station felt like an epileptic fit.
I have no more ambition for this book than that some day someone will be lying in bed and read out a single lineand that their companion will turn away from them in silence . . .