Aphorisms by Mignon McLaughlin

In the 1940s, Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) became an editor at Vogue and for the next three decades or so wrote or edited for most of the big women’s magazines in New York City, including Cosmopolitan, Red Book, Good Housekeeping and Glamour. In the 1950s, she began publishing aphorisms that were later collected in three books—The Neurotic’s Notebook, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook and The Complete Neurotic’s Notebook. The Brabant Press has brought together a new edition of McLaughlin’s wry, mordant observations in Apercus: The Aphorisms of Mignon McLaughlin. The ‘apercu’ in the title is fitting, since McLaughlin reads a little bit like a suburban La Rochefoucauld (Geary’s Guide pp. 131-134) and covers many of the same themes: the fickleness of love, the falsity of social relations, the foibles of the sophisticated. There’s also a hint of Dorothy Parker (Geary’s Guide pp. 296-297) here, less of the word play but the same bitter cynicism. In fact, if Dorothy Parker had a part in Mad Men, she might have come up with witticisms like these. McLaughlin has been largely forgotten. Hopefully, this Brabant edition will rectify that oversight.

The know-nothings are, unfortunately, seldom the do-nothings.

Love looks forward, hate looks back, and anxiety has eyes all over its head.

I am a splendid daughter to the parents of my friends.

Learning too soon our limitations, we never learn our powers.

“Pull yourself together” is seldom said to anyone who can.

What you can’t get out of, get into wholeheartedly.

We always prefer war on our own terms to peace on someone else’s.

Most of us would rather risk catastrophe than read the directions.

The time to begin most things is ten years ago.

Everybody can write; writers can’t do anything else.

Much of the time we just tread water, for the raft is too far away and we have got tired of swimming.

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times—always with the same person.