. . . Karl Kraus

. . .


- in memoriam Karl Kraus, H. L. Mencken, Olive Moore
  1. Why I Read Such Benign Books: The single Nietzsche passage I think of most often is the one in which he's listened to Bizet's Carmen twenty times through and become a better person each time.
  2. Another reason: I believe Nietzsche's philosophical system was aphorism. Not his strategy, his system.
  3. There's no Sally Rand Truth to find behind the fans and bubbles. Take "fan" and "bubble" away, and away goes "Sally Rand", just as removal of "brick" and "jail" vanishes "kat".
  4. Before going to work, the aphorist pushes into long flopping shoes, and buttons, studs, ties, and cummberbunds into a monkey suit smelling of real monkey. The shoes expensively gleam and pinch; the suit is tailor-made. Still, the nature of the job is clear enough.
  5. Reading Heidegger on Nietzsche is like watching a snowed-in prospector twirl boiled bootlaces on a fork and chew and chew and chew and swallow them. Directed by G. W. Pabst, starring Gibson Gowland.
  6. Aphorists hate liberals for their earnest argument. Bible-thumpers hate liberals for their skepticism. But the enemy of the aphorist's enemy is not the aphorist's friend. The aphorist depends more directly on the existence of the comfortably tolerant than the bible-thumper depends on the existence of the heretic.
  7. Those who admire aphorists judge a tree by the tenacity of its branches. Wherefore by their thorns ye shall know them.
  8. I was too sickly to attend ag school, but I doubt you can sow fields with thorns.
  9. An aphorism is a scenic rest stop between an unsupported argument and an undesired consequence. On day trips, we wage slaves make it to the state park and turn back.


2. Only Nietzsche's? Or even moreso?

What strikes me is the blatancy with which Nietzsche's practice is ignored by his elucidators. But his work is hardly alone in that regard, you're right. Maybe if I started thinking of the process as something like Hollywood adaptations not pretending to get at any better understanding of the material, but at least publicizing it and occasionally providing entertainment of its own it wouldn't seem so odd to me....

they ALL ignore ALL the formally and methodologically and practically idiosyncratic writers' and thinkers' schticks. even when they don't ignore they don't ignore by writing monographs in which they don't ignore.

Whatever I'm selling, Turbulent Velvet's not buying.

And if you think he's wrong, look closer before you leave the shop. All aphorisms are nonrefundable.

Josh Lukin comments:

I always thought somebody must have been insisting on Nietzsche's system's aphoristicness for Thomas Mann to have worked so hard at challenging that view (in fifty years, people will be substituting "Wilde" and "Hitchens" for those names). Or am I missing your point?

And "Hollywood adaptation" criticism (beautiful analogy) can do a lot. Where would we be if Delany or Butler had understood Althusser correctly?

Plenty of unsystematic Nietzscheans and anti-Nietzscheans around, true. We aphorists don't pretend to novel insights, just to novel phrasings. My point or more accurately my initial motivation was to understand a certain shared limitation, or flaw, across a range of aphorists.

And of course I'm grateful to any scholar who will defend the use-value of misinterpretation.


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