From Publishers Weekly
It's not a stretch to say Geary is obsessed with aphorisms. Ever since discovering the literary form in the "Quotable Quotes" section of Reader's Digest
when he was a child, he has been compiling them. Given his level of passion, it's fitting that he has penned what is probably the definitive work on aphorisms, a love letter– cum–memoir disguised as a reference book. It also explains why he occasionally gets so carried away that he describes Nietzsche as "the Evil [sic] Knievel of nineteenth-century philosophy" and Frenchman Joseph Joubert as "the great apostle of the aphorism." But Geary, deputy editor of the European edition of Time
magazine, is also a veteran newsman, and for the most part he tones down the hype. He provides a useful definition—an aphorism is brief, definitive, personal, philosophical and must have a twist—along with lively thumbnail sketches of some of the masters of the form, among them Ludwig Wittgenstein and Mark Twain, "who deliberately set out to overturn [Benjamin] Franklin's friendly, avuncular sayings with his own darker, more ornery aphorisms." Geary's enthusiasm may overwhelm as much as it enlightens, but fellow fanatics will be delighted. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
What a pleasant, personal, thoughtful little book--and on such an unlikely subject. "Aphorisms are the original oracles," Geary writes, dating back to a time when books were few and people who could read them fewer still. The culture of the world was oral--this was in the time of Lao-tzu, the possibly mythical Chinese scholar--and a wise saying was passed on, down the generational line, until it became, well . . . an aphorism, a small statement that reveals a larger truth. There are rules, the author tells us, for aphorisms, five of them, in fact. Keep it short, definitive (no waffling allowed), and personal. It should have a twist, some hidden meaning or surprise. And it must be philosophical in nature, forcing you to contemplate how universal truths are hidden in the particulars of daily life. Naturally, Geary's account is full of wonderful aphorisms ("the limits of my language mean the limits of my world"), and Geary introduces the reader to some of history's key aphorists, including Buddha, William Blake, and (of course) Benjamin Franklin. Delightful. David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved