If you’re of a literary turn of mind, when you think of the epigram, you may think of Martial, or perhaps a more modern wit like Oscar Wilde. But the tradition of concise, meaningful verbal twists is being partly sustained by Berkeley author Thomas Farber, whose most volume of “the epigrammatic”, Forgone Conclusions: Equivoques, Aperçus, Spars & Cattarhs, has recently been published by Berkeley’s Andrea Young Arts.
“I wanted to try to write intensely in a very compressed way,” said Farber. He said that he turned to epigrams after writing a book of short pieces in the early ’90s. The last dealt with the death of his mother, and he said he found short passages very effective for dealing with intense emotions.
“I started writing epigrams as a kind of left-hand exercise,” he said. “I love the compression and I love the word play.” Foregone Conclusions is Farber’s fourth book of epigrams, all published by small, local presses.
Asked whether the 140-character limit of Twitter is developing a larger society of epigrammists, Farber said he thinks there’s a difference. “Twitter forces people to be aphoristic,” he said, “but [epigrams] aren’t as spontaneous. They’re harder than they look.”
Faber cautions that epigrams tend to be “hyperbolic”. “Karl Kraus said that they’re half truths or one-and-a-half truths. That’s about right,” Farber said.
In addition to his writing, Farber is a senior lecturer in the English department at UC Berkeley, and is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of non-profit, Berkeley-based publisher El Leon Literary Arts. Farber will be reading from Foregone Conclusions at Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore, 2904 College Avenue, at 7:30 p.m., tomorrow evening.