“Life is a zoo in a jungle”

Thanks again to Dave Lull for spotting this piece about Peter De Vries, novelist, New Yorker writer and aphorist, in Commentary. “De Vries is one of the best comic novelists that America has ever produced, and comic novelists do poorly over the long run of literary history,” writes D.G. Myers. “Other than Mark Twain, Ring Lardner, and perhaps Dawn Powell, Americans have tended to discard their humorists after a generation. Josh Billings, Petroleum V. Nasby, Ambrose Bierce, George Ade, Finley Peter Dunne, Will Cuppy, James Thurber, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Wolcott Gibbs, E. B. White, Harry Golden, S. J. Perelman, H. Allen Smith, Leonard Q. Ross — these are names from a textbook, not living writers … De Vries developed a taste for verbal humor while working on a community newspaper in Chicago after leaving school. ‘The result,’ he told an interviewer: ‘I truly enjoy local, homespun philosophers. Right on top of that I actually did write Pepigrams [e.g., “To turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones — pick up your feet”], for use as wall mottoes and such. I got two bucks a Pepigram, and they got stuck in my blood.’ Selected pepigrams:

Life is a zoo in a jungle.

There are times when parenthood seems nothing but feeding the mouth that bites you.

When I can no longer bear to think of the victims of broken homes, I begin to think of the victims of intact ones.

The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.

Prove to me that there is a God and I will really begin to despair.

What people believe is a measure of what they suffer.

Human nature is pretty shabby stuff, as you may know from introspection.

We are not primarily put on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.

Every novel should have a beginning, a muddle, and an end.

“A nude body solves every problem of the universe”

Dave Lull comes through again, this time with notice of what just might be the first book-length publication of Nicolás Gómez-Dávila’s aphorisms (Geary’s Guide, pp. 331-332)—or, scholia, as he called them—Scholia to an Implicit Text, in a review in the journal First Things. “If Gómez-Dávila is ever declared a saint, admittedly a very remote possibility, he should be taken up as the patron of nihilists—which is to say, of most of us on our worst days,” writes Matthew Walther. “His work is a complement to, if not a substitute for, gin, tobacco, and constant prayer.” There is also this piece by Chris R. Morgan in The American Conservative. Selected scholia:

Journalism was the cradle of literary criticism. The university is its grave.

Vulgarity consists not in what vulgar people do but in what pleases them.

Reading newspapers debases him whom it does not stultify.

The modern world shall not be punished. It is the punishment.

No folk tale has ever begun thus: ‘Once upon a time there was a president.’

Today there is no-one to fight for. Only against.

A nude body solves every problem of the universe.

“How inspirational guff invaded our lives”

Paula Cocozza of The Guardian writes, “Inspirational quotes are everywhere. What’s going on? And do they really help?”

Inspirational quotes operate as currency on social media – not only in terms of the way their wisdom is handled and passed on, but because motivational tweets have become a key indicator of a person worth following. In 2013, Forbes ran a list of the most influential people on social media. (There is no escape: clicking that link will activate a pop-up “Quote of the Day”. Enjoy!) Haydn Shaughnessy compiled the data, and noticed that the most influential people on Twitter offered a stream of motivational content. “When we looked at leading social media influencers in 2012, they were all people who created a lot of content. By 2013,” he says, “it was much more likely that a top influencer would be tweeting inspiration instead of creating separate content. The reason? People probably don’t read content anyway, they just share it.”

Read the rest of the piece here.