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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The rap on brevity

We know that "lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno," for example, or "brevity is the soul of wit." The rap on brevity, though, is that it is simplistic. The idea that what fits on bumper stickers or "sound bites" represents a superficial knowledge. That the short form is authoritarian because apodictic. What can you say in a 140 character tweet? We've all heard this arguments. Whenever someone quotes Kissinger to the effect that academic politics are vicious because the stakes are low, my heart sinks. The person seems to think that the aphorism explains something (it doesn't) that K. said it first (he didn't) that this is the first time we're hearing this (it isn't) and that we will be impressed by the quotation (we aren't and won't be). As though academic politics were more vicious than, say, invading Cambodia?

The narrator of Cinco horas on Mario quotes from Proverbs but then doesn't understand the biblical verses. She speaks in a serious of idiomatic expressions, clichés, cursilerías, and proverbs in order to express a deeply conservative philosophy. The book, then, is a wonderful compendium of linguistic items. Every single page contains dozens of them. The fact her language is like this is supposed to explain something about her, her rigidity and lack of imagination.

The Celestina, the proverbs are there for there bitter cynicism.

1 comment:

Phaedrus said...

Aphorisms are a "kick" into more discussion. Aphorisms are not true; their opposites are equally true, and enlivening. It is hard to write them!