Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Books We Love"

A single page of Don Paterson's collection of aphorisms, "Best Thought, Worst Thought," contains enough philosophical conjecture, elegant bile, and cold hard truths (or facile lies) to power three regulation-length novels. The misanthropy on display here alternates with humor, or simply merges with it ("You've made a blog ... Clever boy! Next: flushing"), making for irresistible sampling. Some of the aphorisms read like surreal microfictions ("Sex is better in dreams as the prick has an eye"), others like entries in a journal intime. Just when he has you chuckling, he'll whip out a line that reads like a freshly translated fragment from a distant epoch ("Imagining the worst is no talisman against it"). You get the sense that Paterson both stakes his life on every sentence and wants to distance himself from it almost before the ink has dried, and these impulses give the book its perfect rhythm. As he puts it, "A style is a strategy of evasion."


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