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Monday, March 11, 2013

Dusting Off Old Aphorisms

I'm still sorting through old boxes in my office, scaling down sedimented layers of papers, dissertation drafts, MA exams, seminar papers, undergraduate papers, a play written in high school, and so on. This afternoon I discovered folded inside a paper written in 1983 after my first encounter with The Importance of Being Earnest in a freshman comp lit class at Indiana University some early scribbled aphorisms of my own. I vaguely remember forming the idiotic but comfortingly conventionally undergraduate intention of writing my own Wildean mannered comedy. A century after his death the world was clearly crying out for such a thing -- mind you, I didn't learn about Joe Orton or even Edward Albee until a few years later, I truly was a flabbergasting ignoramus. But anyway, all my aphorisms had quotations around them, and hence were signaling their readiness to be spouted off as superannuated snappy dialogue -- and in some cases at least it seems to me the quotation marks were also providing a little figleaf of the alibi of presumably female characters expressing what now seem to me transparently queer sentiments I was testifying to without quite having a handle on what my closeted predecessor was doing in writing them (and in responding so enthusiastically to Wilde, needless to say). Anyway, here they are, and I'm pleased to say some of them really don't seem to me half bad after all these years.

"You can't be immoral and indecent at the same time, they cancel each other out. You absolutely have to pick one."

"Never compare yourself to other people in public places, it's always impolite and eventually inaccurate."

"I'd marry beneath me to be beneath him."

"Oh, stop saying how talented she is! Talented people are just lucky people who don't want to be reminded that luck never lasts long, or hardworking people who don't want to be reminded that life never lasts long."

"I am planning to die as a last resort."

"Getting out of bed every morning sounds to me like extremism."

"Iconoclasts never smash mirrors." (I didn't consciously remember this, but posted a variation on it -- arguably less good -- as a Futurological Brickbat twenty-five years later. That jolt of recognition was the prompt for taking the time to scribble this little post, actually.)

"Why do you keep calling him a genius? Is he pretentious, or just a plagiarist?"

"I'm struggling to remain symmetrical."

"You despise me because I try to be unprincipled. I despise you because you try to be unprejudiced. That's a prejudice I despise on principle."

"That steady hand of yours is a sure sign of the uninformed."

"You really should stop accusing things that occur in nature of being unnatural. It's unnatural."

"I think I would enjoy this much more if I could find some way to feel sincerely guilty about it."

"The single thing more presumptuous than intolerance is tolerance of it."

"I have heard that birth is always traumatic for the inexperienced."

"Well, none of us can have the impossible, so we all have to make do with the improbable."

"Appearances are never deceiving, but sometimes they are fictional."

"He was ambitious enough and diligent enough, finally, to achieve obscurity. And not only in his writing."

(How's that last one for a portent?)

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