Truth Be Told: New & Collected Premortems


Thomas Farber                                             

            The truth will out. In 1993, completing my first book of nonfiction about the Pacific, I was abducted by seventeenth century writer Francois (duc de) La Rochefoucauld. Brutally subjected to his Maxims , I then found myself...trying some of my own. What ensued was a decade of reading and composing, presented here in The Price of the Ride (1996); Compressions : A Second Helping (1998); and the recently completed Tongue-Tied : A Breviary of Cautions & Savors . Also here are the companion essays for each, together comprising an appraisal of my fascination with this intensely self-conscious, often intemperate form.

            Over the last ten years, among other projects I wrote a second book of nonfiction about warm ocean and the Pacific, collaborated twice with marine photographer Wayne Levin, dreamed and completed a novel, and launched myself into a book on salsa--dance and music. If the epigrammatic never was all I was up to with language, neither was it far from my mind. I'd read aphorists; suddenly hear an idiom as if for the first time; tease out component energies of vices, virtues; precise the genesis of this gag reflex, that. Would once more go to my late mother's dictionary to ascertain root, vector. I treasured revelations provoked by unexpected similarities, by rejuvenating word inversions, seemingly capricious juxtapositions, willfully mixed metaphors. Here, as often as not, to connect the dots--to unpack the meaning--the reader would have to be alert, to rethink or reread a line that had initially required only an instant. Further, both form and content were frequently polemical (from the Greek, polemos , war). Disputatious, controverting. Contentious, not just in response to human foible or fate but because, in this medium with pretensions to the magisterially impersonal universal, the genially or implacably authoritative, the writer was willy-nilly exposing himself.

            There's a Simon & Garfunkel line, "Hello darkness my old friend." Sometimes, to again start writing is to salute the strangely familiar unknown, where one will have to blindly feel his way. There's a seductive eros in this recurrence, despite the sensation of risk: in darkness you can lead yourself astray. Among prose forms, the epigrammatic in particular gives ample opportunity to do just that, despite or while   inducing the shock of recognition, the often perverse delight of illumination.

            Now, surveying the mayhems presented here, with the clarity of looking back I confess to having savored partiality and the partial more than I should have. Accordingly, allow me to take this opportunity to retract each and every word.      


© Thomas Farber, 2004