More Aphorisms by Thomas Farber

Thomas Farber returns with a new collection of epigrams, Hesitation Marks, from Andrea Young Arts. Farber also returns in excellent aphoristic form, with more mordant and amusing musings on sex, death, and … well, that just about covers it, sex and death being two inexhaustible subjects about which to commit “epigrammatics,” as Farber describes his excursions into the short form. And he also delivers a thoughtful epilogue to the book, in which he responds to readers who ask the inevitable, Why epigrams? “Well … occasionally, they ensue from hearing a word or phrase as if for the first time, awakening to sound, layered meaning,” Farber writes. “Revealing or explicating latent or forgotten life in language … Sometimes, however, the impulse is a hunger to get at what’s going on in our behavior, conviction it must be got at.”

He also includes a nice citation from William Matthews: “The best epigrams, like the endings of great poems, shimmer and twist. Little is ended. There’s much to think and feel. The rhetorical pleasure of an epigram may be its conclusiveness and concision, but the soul of its brevity is a long thoughtfulness.”

But, of course, every aphorist will recognize and agree with Farber’s formulation of the true and real motivation for our obsession with the form. “Finally,” he writes, “there’s thrill in working so unmarketable a form. Think of, say, how skateboarding used to be, endless repetitions to achieve proficiency lacking dollar value in a culture that’s all about dollars.”

Here are selections from Farber’s unmarketable but remarkable Hesitation Marks:

Jealousy’s geometry: no right triangles.

Tango, envy: it takes two to.

Not just fat: full of himself.

Constipation. Sit-down strike.

The young: surprised when the body doesn’t work.

The old: surprised when it does.

Middle v. old age: out living v. outlived.