A compilation of laconic, pithy sayings meant partly to guide daily life and partly as a tribute to the rich tradition of literary aphorisms.
In an era of 140-character tweets, Wick (The Devil's Tale, 2006) revisits Twitter’s intellectual predecessor—the epigram, and its close sibling, the aphorism—in a series of sometimes surprising, often thought-provoking, but always brief satirical statements and philosophies for everyday living. With an obvious enthusiasm for language and its history, the author introduces the quasi-restrictive form and its notable fans and pioneers, from the ancient Greeks to William Shakespeare to Samuel Johnson, even proposing that Jesus Christ’s most famous quotations had in them the spirit of epigrams, combining observations and wit to subvert and challenge conventional thinking. In this vein, Wick presents his own aphorisms, encouraging readers to take them at their leisure and in no particular order. The bits share no overarching theme, though they revisit several subjects, railing against vague social and moral restrictions and offering some commentary on the way society engages with faith and religion. All are offered without context (as all good aphorisms should be), but the collection has a derisive tone that appears early and obviously—“If you see a blind beggar kick him. Why should you be kinder than God?”—and saturates the work. However, though cynical, none of the entries fall back on the ease of sarcasm, always shooting for insight or irreverence, sometimes achieving both. And while aphorisms and epigrams often aim to promote different ways of thinking, entertainment seems to be the book’s primary goal, as it regularly goes for easy laughs with simple puns and malapropisms and boasts comical “reviewer comments” on the cover from figures such as Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and Apollonius of Tyana. The use of such names is no accident, of course, since the text knows its influences and pays respect to each.
Though it doesn’t live up to its influences, this collection loves the form and offers plenty of wit and humorous observations.