December 1, 2007

What's Sushi Like?

All quotes below are from James Geary's 'The Art of the Aphorism' (Nat Post, Nov 29, '07). He may not have contributed the title, which seems to be error-free.

"There is an aphorism for everything, and everything its aphorism: That's my philosophy."
? Can a single sentence be a philosophy? Not if its redundancy serves only to make its intended statement incoherent.

". . . only a fool makes a speech in a burning house. Aphorisms must work quickly because they are meant for use in emergencies. We're most in need of aphorisms at times of distress or joy, ecstasy or anguish."
Ok, I'll bite. In what way do joy and ecstasy figure in moments of personal emergency? Sorting from this sentence the terms that do apply, I don't see how despair or anguish is likely to heighten anyone's appreciation of even so embattled an aphorism as Swift's "Is this an Age of Man to consider a crime improbable merely because it is great?" Anguish might make you more sensitive to emotion, though it's likelier to deliver you over to indiscriminate puddles of it; in neither case does it necessarily heighten sensitivity to sharp, precise thought; and despair tends to flatten response to thought and feeling both.

A little later he quotes, as an example of "the surreal one liners of standup comic Steven Wright:
'When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.' "
Not the sharpest one liner I've ever heard, and surreal? Put it in a box of four with 2.) a fur covered coffee cup, 3.) a landscape of melted watches, 4.) a man looking in a mirror at the image of the back of his head, and sing "One of these things is not like the others."
Geary himself manages an (unintentionally?) surreal effect though, in his final paragraph:
"Aphorisms are food for thought--always fresh, always in season, always delicious. Like sushi, they come in small portions that are exquisitely formed. And, like sushi, I can never get enough."
Sushi can never get enough of aphorisms? This I never heard.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

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