I would not skip the essays in David Lazar’s I’ll Be Your Mirror: Essays & Aphorisms (University of Nebraska Press, 2017). They’re great reading. But allow me to comment only on the last section of the book, the aphorisms.
They’re divided into two sections, “Rock, Paper, Scissors, God” and “Mothers, Etc.” Let me start with the latter section, comprised of psychologically intense bursts of language. For example, “She had heard that blood was good for the skin, that Mother.” These short entries operate more like jagged fragments excerpted from a dark tale than as what we conventionally might term aphorisms. Of course, in the aphorism now, just as in poetry, anything is permitted, as the late Nicanor Parra says, “as long as you improve on the blank page.”
The ‘mother’ character of these aphoristic utterances hovers in a space between archetype and an actual person, which commends both their universality and their immediacy: ‘You can get addicted to a Mother, even if she isn’t your own.” It would be remiss not to mention the images of Heather Frise that disturb, in a good way, the pages of “Mothers, Etc.” Often sexually-charged and visually punning, one might say Frise’s images are Freudian slips between what Lazar has spoken.
Turning back to the first section, with its neat title, “Rock, Paper, Scissors, God,” we find a group of aphorisms that operate more in the vein of what we conventionally think of as aphorisms: “If my closets are full, where do I keep the skeletons?”
Walking is a theme Lazar works: “Is walking a form of public transportation?”
Even in this section Lazar’s aphorisms seem to be short stories distilled to one, maybe two lines; stories with a twist or coming at things from an oblique angle. Lazar sees the world differently: “The bliss in opening the door and finding no one there.” Or, “Even if you break your mirror and throw away most of the pieces, you can still see your eye, your fingers.”
A few more samples from David Lazar’s book…
From “Rock, Paper, Scissors, God”
When asked for my street address, I say, “I’m standing right here.”
There is nothing better than coming home, except for leaving home and staying away from home.
Our family crest was a nest of vipers.
Unless you write your epitaph, you never get the last word.
From “Mothers, Etc.”
Sometimes, out of nowhere, a Mother will love herself in a darkly consoling way.
Mothers freeze-dry our tears and sell them on the black market.
The Mother couldn’t help holding what she carried.
Mothers of Mothers know about places even all the other Mothers don’t know about.