Aphorisms by Manfred Weidhorn

“After a half century of teaching and writing and after publishing ten books …,” Manfred Weidhorn writes, ” I entered the stage of life in which such matters dwindle in significance and one looks back rather on the road taken. Drawing on all my experiences and gathering the courage or, if you will, lapsing into the folly of hazarding conclusions about the larger picture, I have therefore in the past two years published three books on the meaning of it all.” One of those books is Landmines of the Mind: 1,500 Original and Impolite Assertions, Surmises, and Questions about Almost Everything, Mr. Weidhorn’s collection of astute and occasionally acerbic aphorisms. In the preface to Landmines, Mr. Weidhorn compares writing (and reading) to connecting the dots or, in the case of aphorisms, to not connecting the dots; instead just skipping “from one impression to another.” ‘Impression’ is definitely the right word here, since aphorisms are like pointillist paintings. Close up they may seem like a random collection of unformed, ill-placed splodges. But step back a bit and consider the whole and a definite pattern emerges. I guess we don’t so much connect the dots as linger long enough and pay enough attention to observe the dots connect themselves. Herewith, a few of Mr. Weidhorn’s points to ponder…

If young people should be seen and not heard, old people should be heard and not seen.

Blessed are the fortunate, for they have inherited the earth.

For people in developed countries, life consists mainly of moving from one room to another.

Some people would not be so wicked if the rest of us were not so stupid.

God spoke to you? He spoke to me too and told me to ignore you.

Actually, what does not kill me, often injures me grievously.

Aphorisms by Martin Langford

Martin Langford, a poet and teacher, is also a keen practitioner and promoter of the aphoristic form in Australia. His book Microtexts is a collection of his aphorisms, many of which are pensees that focus on the art of writing itself, an art that Langford demonstrates in these sayings depends very much on the art of living. A brief selection from Microtexts:

Long before Warhol, books had been mass-produced objects that spoke to people individually.

Sometimes, good craftsmanship can reveal that there was nothing there in the first place.

Meaning is a walk in the snow.

Minimalism is just another excess of style.

Few people complete their experience of an event until they have talked about it.

More Aphorisms by Sabahudin Hadzialic

I first blogged about Sabahudin Hadzialic’s aphorisms back in 2009. Here is a fresh selection of his mordant black humor, translated into English by Anya Reich with a little idiomatic editing by me…

Socialist thought created a religion of ideology; capitalist thought created an ideology of religion.

In the Balkans, apathy is not the exception that proves the rule, it is the rule that excludes the exception!

Why do we hate each other? After all, we’re just three different tribes of the same people. But which tribe!?

Politicians decided to put an end to organized crime—by committing mass suicide!

Campaigning is when you want to influence the masses; manipulation is when you succeed.

Even More Aphorisms (Epigrams) by Thomas Farber

Thomas Farber, senior lecturer in English at the University of California, Berkeley, has a new collection of epigrammatic epistles coming out in August: Foregone Conclusions. In the afterword to the book, Farber writes: “Humor. Writing and rewriting these spars and catarrhs, I often laughed. Because of wordplay, of course. But also because I was turning moral blindness, often my own, into recognition of the distance between error and self-knowledge, self-image and fact. If the epigrammist appears to presume himself superior to others, of course he’s implicated in all he perceives. As, when children, insulted, we’d retort, ‘Takes one to know one.’” For some of Farber’s conclusions that have gone before on this blog, click here and here.

Monogamy, so you can each focus on food.

The last two centuries. From village community (gemeinschaft) to atomistic capitalism (gesellschaft). From see to c.c.

Sleepless: nocternity.

When not repeating itself, history stutters.

He found it harder to distinguish between things intended and things done.

If the old ask, “Which way?” graciously explain, “Dead ahead.”

Metaphors in Worn-Out Words

The Ledbury Poetry Festival starts today. Last year, The Guardian asked poets to name their most hated words. For this year’s festival, running until 10 July, the paper asked for ‘worn-out words‘, expressions that have become such cliches that they have lost all meaning. Here are their responses, including my own. You might not be surprised to learn that the expressions are all, er, metaphors…