Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit & Wisdom from History's Greatest Wordsmiths - Dr. Mardy Grothe

I heard about this one on NPR, when they interviewed Mardy Grothe, and it sounded interesting. Basically it's a collection of paradoxical or oxymoronic quotes, on topics from politics to art to life in general. There's also a great section (probably the best chapter, actually) on inadvertent oxymoronica which includes missstatements from the likes of Samuel Goldwyn, Yogi Berra, and good ol' George W. Bush.

Unfortunately, Grothe can't decide whether he's writing a treatise about oxymoronica or simply sharing a large collection of it. He introduces each chapter with a passage explaining the history of paradoxical statements in that arena, including several quotes which he feels obliged to explain. Generally, these take the form of: "obviously, this statement is impossible when taken literally, but is profoundly true when you stop to think about it." For all the lengths he goes to saying that oxymorons have always been enjoyed (and used) by the most intelligent folk, you'd think he would give his audience a little more credit. I think it would have been a much better book if he'd just made it a book of quotations with an introductory essay, rather than trying to make it a book to be read front to back. He mentions that this collection of 1400 quotes is from his personal collection of eight to ten thousand. Give me that collection, I say!

Its weaknesses aside, this is still probably the first book to amass a large collection of paradoxical quotes, so if you enjoy that sort of thing, its certainly worth checking out. It would be a good resource for speechwriters, I'm sure.

Fed to jonathan's brain | April 23, 2004