A recent discovery thanks to the exhibition of Alison Watt's beautiful paintings of tangled, swooping fabric at the National Gallery. The accompanying catalogue includes a poem by Paterson which led me to his excellent collection of aphorisms A Book of Shadows. Honest yet theatrical, cutting and arrogant, self-deprecating and witty, they are a joy. Delivered with concision and ruthless perception, they are often combined with the delivery of a good stand-up comedian. To be honest I've not registered the aphorism as a literary form before and Paterson self-consciously foregrounds the form within this book. Does anyone know any other good aphorists?

NB: I saw Alison Watt at a recent book launch and recognised her but had no idea where from. Always in these situations my assumption is that I've seen the person on The Bill. Which is odd, as I haven’t seen an episode in over five years.

Readers Comments

  1. Swift's are good, and full of quotations in a Hamlet sort of way. (There's a selection in the Oxford Authors Swift, which is pretty widely available. Also, Karl Kraus - Carcanet published a translated selection called Half-truths and One-and-a-half Truths.

  2. La Rochefoucauld's Collected Maxims is, for me, the definitive collection of aphorisms

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