An exploration of the aphorism, a time-honored literary form that has delighted audiences for centuries.
In this slim collection of maxims, author Figna and annotator Bonini engage in a form of conversation with roots in the Socratic dialogues. Figna crafts remarks that oscillate between being sincere and tongue-in-cheek, and Bonini often responds with annotations that speak both to Figna and the reader. Although the volume is generally optimistic and affable, it’s punctuated with tart interludes of pointed cynicism, as when Figna revises a fairy tale: “Sleeping Beauty is a lady who got the dose of Valium wrong.” The adages range from the quixotic to the practical, the absurd to the serious, the personal to the political. At times, the two authors agree, but the exchanges are most thought-provoking when they diverge, as when Figna says that if she “could found cities, I would rebuild Sodom and Gomorrah,” and Bonini notes that she’d rebuild Alexandria. Bonini’s annotations often add a layer of humor to the discourse, and also explain references to authors, poets, philosophers, theorists and essayists—among them are Roland Barthes, Gertrude Stein, Arthur Rimbaud and Marcel Proust. Insights into the modern imagination abound, such as Figna’s droll twist on René Descartes’s most famous motto by substituting “coito”—Latin for “I mate”—for “cogito” in “Cogito, ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”). At times, the bons mots are so strange as to be indecipherable or so enigmatic that readers may become lost. On the whole, however, the collection reads like the intellectual diary of two writers whose combined cultural knowledge is as sharp as it is estimable.
A witty, deft compilation of curated observations.