Aphorisms by Eero Suvilehto

Sami Feiring, a Finnish aphorist and charter member of the World Aphorism Organization, sends translations of aphorisms by Eero Suvilehto. Born in 1947, Suvilehto is an adjunct professor of Bulgarian literature and has also made a career as a wrestler: He was Nordic Champion in 1972 in Greco-Roman wrestling. His two aphorism collections are Avattava varovasti (1998) and Kysyi sammakko tietä (2007). He also writes poetry, short stories, scholarly articles, and columns. A selection:

Artists, those poor students of life, crib from their teacher.

Borders stop the poor from coming in, not the rich from leaving.

In the theatre of life it’s the actors who direct.

All is said, but not to everyone.

The myth of individuality keeps the herd together.

Poverty is not a sin. It cannot be forgiven.

An army’s best friend is its enemy.

Children are mankind’s attempt to become wiser.

The child asks. You reply with your life.

History: Cosmetics of the past.

Weekend flings with nature: Who’s cheating whom?

When thoughts don’t sell, faces are offered for sale.

History teaches victims to become hangmen.

They pat you on the back, preferably with a knife.

A Novel (and Some Aphorisms) by Sara Levine

Aphorism and fiction fans have another reason to be festive this holiday season: Sara Levine, associate professor and chair of the Writing Program at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a charter member of the World Aphorism Organization, has a novel coming out on December 7! Treasure Island!!! is a satirical novel in which the nameless narrator has a dead end job, a passionless relationship and an incredibly bad attitude. But after reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island on a whim, she decides to turn things around and follow in the footsteps of Jim Hawkins. Her best friend is flummoxed (“Isn’t it a boys’ book?”), her sister horrified (“I hate a book with no girls in it”), and her parents are more than a little confused when she moves back home, with a $900 Amazonian parrot on her shoulder, espousing the novel’s core values: boldness, resolution, independence, and horn blowing. “When someone spikes your rum cocktail, you want it to have the punch and the smooth finish that this novel does,” novelist Alice Sebold says of the book. “Levine is simultaneously politically incorrect yet humane in this wild romp of a modern farce.”

For a flavor of Treasure Island!!!, what follows is a selection of Levine’s punchy, rumbustious aphorisms, taken from the spring issue of Hotel Amerika, an issue entirely devoted to the form:

Brevity is power, so I make my fictions shorter. The novel became a story, the story became a flash fiction, the flash fiction became an aphorism, but it was little more than a spore. At least when brevity is not power, it reduces the duration of your failure.

A series of aphorisms, however well executed, is torture to get through, with the possible exception of books where one aphorism only is printed on each page. Then the field of white space relaxes the eye, and in the luxury of the pause, one realizes how deeply one wants to throw the book across the room.

She was always saying she would be happy to be a vegetarian, if it weren’t for her husband, who had to have his meat. He was always saying he would be happy to give up wine, if it weren’t for his wife, who loved her drink. And so they ate meat and drank wine till the end of their days, each convinced that they lived well only for the sake of the other.

Why do women write so few aphorisms? he asked me. Why do men write so many?

When my husband was a child, his family kept a few farm animals as pets. One day the cow was gone and a steak was on the table. “But Melody would want you to eat her,” his mother said. And so it always is—the winner’s tongue in the loser’s mouth.

If we establish that I’m good for nothing, am I free to do whatever I want?

I tend to choose narcissists as my friends; that way I don’t worry that they’re talking about me behind my back.

I can give you my psychology in a nutshell: me inside a nutshell, listening for the nutcracker’s approach.

Willpower is like Jesus; it dies so it can be resurrected.

Aphorisms by Michael Haaren

Michael Haaren is the CEO of a training company and writes the monthly Rat Race Rebellion (@RatRaceRebels) column for the Dallas Morning News. “I was living in Paris in Edith Piaf’s run-down 20th arrondissement in the 1980s when I published my first aphorisms,” he writes. “They appeared in short-lived U.S. literary magazines, such as Amelia and Light.” Haaren pens that most daring of aphoristic feats: Writing aphorisms about aphorisms. Ambrose Bierce (Geary’s Guide, pp. 356–358) did it  (“Aphorism, n: Predigested wisdom”); Don Paterson (Geary’s Guide, pp. 297–298) does it (“A book of aphorisms is a lexicon of disappointments”); Gabriel Laub (Geary’s Guide, pp. 43–45) did it (“Men appreciate aphorisms because, among other reasons, they contain half-truths. That is an unusually high percentage”); and so did Julien de Valckenaere (Geary’s Guide, pp. 61–62): “The shortest aphorism that makes you think the longest is the best.” Here follows a selection of Michael Haaren’s sayings, taken from the collection-in-progress Quips and Whips.

The difference between the wrong word and the right word is the difference between oceans and continence.

Aphorism (definition): Philosophy and mirth on their way to a funeral.

A popular definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Voting, for example.

The true measure of a man’s mind seldom exceeds six inches.

A good aphorism is like the membrane over a snake’s eye: a thin curtain before a striking truth.

More Aphorisms by Oleg Vishnepolsky

I first blogged about Oleg Vishnepolsky back in 2009, and now he’s back with some more merry musings on art, life, technology and business—which, in Oleg’s case, often end up being (and meaning) the same thing. Russian aphorists typically have a very pronounced streak of black humor in their sayings but, in keeping with one of his own aphorisms, Oleg makes an exception of himself, writing upbeat, optimistic aphorisms that make you laugh as well as think. A selection:

I make mistakes, therefore I am.

Advice is best taken like Russian vodka: in small doses but large quantities.

Out of the ordinary should never be out of the question.

If you say more than you know, pretend that you know more than you say.

When one man sees a dark shadow, another sees the bright light that casts it.

“May ALL your dreams come true” is actually a curse.

It is OK to hide your head in the sand if you keep your mouth shut.

Learning to be patient requires a lot of patience.

You can’t save the present moment for a rainy day.

Cynics are color blind realists.

To innovate, listen and understand all the reasons why something absolutely cannot be done. Then do it anyway.

To close the deficit we need to raise taxes on 5 out of every 4 Americans.

Republicans and Democrats share one thing in common: our tax dollars.

Knowledge is not a sum of facts just like a temple is not a sum of stones.

Silence is a form of communication.

Inspiration finds extraordinary in ordinary. Cynicism finds ordinary in extraordinary.

Never buy a round trip ticket to the point of no return.

We live for the moments to die for.

Your car will last you your lifetime if you keep driving it through red lights.

The book of life has no scrap pages; write with care.

You got it made when you can create rules for others and exceptions for yourself.

You have knowledge when you remember the rules; you have experience when you remember exceptions to those rules.