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Thread: The Aphorism

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    Exclamation The Aphorism

    Author James Geary says the aphorism is the oldest and shortest literary form on the planet. I've been accumulating them all my life, and I've published a bunch of mine, along with a sample from masters of the form. Bet you can't read just one!

    https://deadreckoning1.wordpress.com...31/short-form/

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    Default Re: The Aphorism

    Quote Originally Posted by Brilliant Bill View Post
    Author James Geary says the aphorism is the oldest and shortest literary form on the planet. I've been accumulating them all my life, and I've published a bunch of mine, along with a sample from masters of the form. Bet you can't read just one!

    https://deadreckoning1.wordpress.com...31/short-form/
    Ooh, Bill, I'm enjoying this. I have a soft spot for aphorisms also. 2 of my favorites are Everything by Aaron Haspel and The Bed of Procrustes by Nassim Taleb.

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    Default Re: The Aphorism

    I liked David Shields' description: “The aphorism is one of the earliest literary forms—the residue of complex thoughts filtered down to a single metaphor.”

    'Complex thoughts filtered down to a single metaphor' does seem to be the essence of a good one, and you have a few in your list. Well done.

    -edit-

    Thought I'd include the full quote from Shields' Reality Hunger.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Shields
    The aphorism is one of the earliest literary forms—the residue of complex thoughts filtered down to a single metaphor. By the second millennium b.c., in Sumer, aphorisms appeared together in anthologies, collections of sayings that were copied for noblemen, priests, and kings. These lists were then catalogued by theme: “Honesty,” “Friendship,” “Death.” When read together, these collections of sayings could be said to make a general argument on their common themes, or at least shed some light somewhere, or maybe simply obsess about a topic until a little dent has been made in the huge idea they all pondered. “Love.” Via editing and collage, the form germinated into longer, more complex, more sustained, and more sophisticated essayings. The Hebrew wisdom of Ecclesiastes is essentially a collection of aphorisms, as are Confucius’s religious musings and Heraclitus’s fragments. These extended aphorisms eventually crossed the border into essay: the diaries of Sei Shônagon, Anne Bradstreet’s letters, Kafka’s notebooks, Pound’s criticism.
    Last edited by dneal; February 1st, 2024 at 08:14 AM.
    "A truth does not mind being questioned. A lie does not like being challenged."

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    Default Re: The Aphorism

    Thanks, always appreciate another source. I don't know if it's snobbiness or some sort of intellectual guilt, but I still bristle a bit at the idea of the aphorism being a "literary form." I wonder if a collection of aphorisms isn't more like a tub of popped corn at a movie. Pleasant accompaniment, good fiber, but nutritionally insignificant. I remember a lot of movies I've seen. I can't recall anything about the popcorn. Nevertheless, I can't help myself; I'll keep writing them.


    Quote Originally Posted by dneal View Post
    I liked David Shields' description: “The aphorism is one of the earliest literary forms—the residue of complex thoughts filtered down to a single metaphor.”

    'Complex thoughts filtered down to a single metaphor' does seem to be the essence of a good one, and you have a few in your list. Well done.

    -edit-

    Thought I'd include the full quote from Shields' Reality Hunger.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Shields
    The aphorism is one of the earliest literary forms—the residue of complex thoughts filtered down to a single metaphor. By the second millennium b.c., in Sumer, aphorisms appeared together in anthologies, collections of sayings that were copied for noblemen, priests, and kings. These lists were then catalogued by theme: “Honesty,” “Friendship,” “Death.” When read together, these collections of sayings could be said to make a general argument on their common themes, or at least shed some light somewhere, or maybe simply obsess about a topic until a little dent has been made in the huge idea they all pondered. “Love.” Via editing and collage, the form germinated into longer, more complex, more sustained, and more sophisticated essayings. The Hebrew wisdom of Ecclesiastes is essentially a collection of aphorisms, as are Confucius’s religious musings and Heraclitus’s fragments. These extended aphorisms eventually crossed the border into essay: the diaries of Sei Shônagon, Anne Bradstreet’s letters, Kafka’s notebooks, Pound’s criticism.

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    Default Re: The Aphorism

    Yeah, "literary form" is technically correct - but I also bristle at the overly (needlessly?) academic. I am impressed with the notion of "extended aphorisms eventually cross[ing] the border into essay".

    The thing I think Shields misses in his "filtering of complex thoughts" is the wisdom in those complex thoughts. Aphorisms could be like mental popcorn (e.g.: Yogi Berra); but great aphorisms are a way of retaining wisdom through generations.
    "A truth does not mind being questioned. A lie does not like being challenged."

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    Default Re: The Aphorism

    I may have come up with a decent aphorism once, or maybe I read it somewhere and forgotten I'd read it, and then it resurfaced and I thought it had originated with me. I honestly don't know. But no matter where it came from, it spoke to me once I found myself writing it down. (With a fountain pen, of course.) Here it is:

    It's very easy to believe bad things about people you don't like.
    Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur. — Horace
    (What are you laughing at? Just change the name and the joke’s on you.)

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    Default Re: The Aphorism

    And it's easy to like bad people who do bad things you're too timid to do.

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