Best Thought, Worst Thought (Graywolf Press) is a new book of aphorisms & observations by Scottish poet Don Paterson. Teresa picked it up for me at a recent book festival, judging correctly by the title and look of it that it would be something I'd gravitate to. I liked--didn't love--it, and as I read I jotted down the entries I thought I'd want to return to later:
*[from the foreword]: On the morning the Barbarians wandered through the gates, everyone in Rome had their feet up and was reading a foreword.
*The aphorism will often contain one italicized word; this denotes its magnetic North, not its direction.
*No matter how beautiful it is, if it appears in the wrong month, kill it.
*When I first learned that Bach preceded Mozart I was completely incredulous. All but the most naive among us accept that literature doesn't progress, but we've always held out higher hopes for music, as if the species might somehow hitch a ride on it.
*Like every other literary critic, Bloom credits the writer with far too much interest in literature.
*Sympathetic proof of hylozoism: imagine a stone lying on a beach, undisturbed for fifty years; impossible to think that, walking by, we could pick it up and throw it into the sea, and that it could feel nothing...
*Our names should be lengthened a little after our demise, by the lovely matronymic of death...we'd then appear in the conversation of our friends and enemies with our signature cadence gently altered, discreetly informing strangers of our change of status.
*No sense steps into the same word twice.
Poetry Daily posted Paterson's full foreword to the book as a special prose feature a while back. In it, Paterson shares his thoughts on the form and on a number of other aphorists, including Nietzsche, author of my favorite aphorism--not for the sentiment, but for the image: "In a man devoted to knowledge, pity seems almost ridiculous, like delicate hands on a cyclops."