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.