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The Life & Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman

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No one description will fit this strange, eccentric, endlessly complex masterpiece. It is a fiction about fiction-writing in which the invented world is as much infused with wit and genius as the theme of inventing it. It is a joyful celebration of the infinite possibilities of the art of fiction, and a wry demonstration of its limitations. This Penguin Classic contains Ch No one description will fit this strange, eccentric, endlessly complex masterpiece. It is a fiction about fiction-writing in which the invented world is as much infused with wit and genius as the theme of inventing it. It is a joyful celebration of the infinite possibilities of the art of fiction, and a wry demonstration of its limitations. This Penguin Classic contains Christopher Ricks's introductory essay, itself a classic of English literary criticism, together with a new introduction on the recent critical history and influence of Tristram Shandy by Melvyn New. The text and notes are based on the acclaimed Florida Edition, making the scholarship of the Florida editors readily available for the first time.


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No one description will fit this strange, eccentric, endlessly complex masterpiece. It is a fiction about fiction-writing in which the invented world is as much infused with wit and genius as the theme of inventing it. It is a joyful celebration of the infinite possibilities of the art of fiction, and a wry demonstration of its limitations. This Penguin Classic contains Ch No one description will fit this strange, eccentric, endlessly complex masterpiece. It is a fiction about fiction-writing in which the invented world is as much infused with wit and genius as the theme of inventing it. It is a joyful celebration of the infinite possibilities of the art of fiction, and a wry demonstration of its limitations. This Penguin Classic contains Christopher Ricks's introductory essay, itself a classic of English literary criticism, together with a new introduction on the recent critical history and influence of Tristram Shandy by Melvyn New. The text and notes are based on the acclaimed Florida Edition, making the scholarship of the Florida editors readily available for the first time.

30 review for The Life & Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Before I start my review of this delightful classic, I have to tell you a short anecdote from my teaching life. But don’t worry, it is not really a digression at all, as it is leading directly to the essence of this novel. It actually has more relevance for Tristram Shandy than many of the anecdotes Tristram himself tells in his story. If it is a digression, (which I formally dispute, partly because you can’t really digress before you have begun, and partly because it is crucial for the review’s Before I start my review of this delightful classic, I have to tell you a short anecdote from my teaching life. But don’t worry, it is not really a digression at all, as it is leading directly to the essence of this novel. It actually has more relevance for Tristram Shandy than many of the anecdotes Tristram himself tells in his story. If it is a digression, (which I formally dispute, partly because you can’t really digress before you have begun, and partly because it is crucial for the review’s essential development), BUT IF it should be considered a digression (by the harsh standards of formal review guidelines and rules), it certainly is of the noble Tristram-kind known as a “progressive digression”. It is also quite modest and unpretentious, as it won’t need any footnotes, and it won’t come with Latin quotes either, or with omitted or ripped out chapters. It will simply be a short introductory tale - setting the stage for the review to come. Here it is then, without any further announcement! Anecdote leading to the formal beginning of the review: I used to teach a very peculiar class for a couple of years. They were known throughout the school for their lively interest in everything and for their almost inexhaustible talent for digression. Whatever you set out to teach them, they took over and formed a lesson of their own according to their curiosity and enthusiasm. You had to prepare for their classes in exactly the opposite way compared to all other groups. In other lessons, you were trying your best to stimulate interest and to engage in interactive discussions to keep the students remotely awake, but with this set of adolescents you had to plan some deliberately, excruciatingly boring elements in order to curb their energies, and to guide them towards some kind of focus. They had so many questions to ask, so many anecdotes to tell, so many viewpoints to argue, that you simply did not get to finish a single chapter in the history book on time. That, of course, is inconvenient as you can’t postpone the assessment of the Grade 8 curriculum to Grade 10. One day, when I was particularly tired - it was the last period in the afternoon - I lost control of their discussion. Whoever has taught a lively class knows what I am talking about. You realise all of a sudden that you are completely off topic, that there are centuries of history to wade through to get back to the starting point, and that the class machine is running full speed towards the edge of reason. All hands were up, everyone wanted to share opinions and life stories, and I wanted to wrap up and go home. What to do? Slowly, steadily I started to take over the conductor job again, to guide the diverse contributions towards my goal, to rein in the cacophony of voices. We were just about to reestablish order and to close the chapter of the initial digression that had got the unruly crowd started, when one boy raised his hand and threw in another random thought, pointing straight towards new chaos. I finally lost my only superficially kept temper and yelled: “STOP DIGRESSING FROM THE DIGRESSION!” From then on, that became a standard saying in the class, a sure card to play to get them to laugh. Little did I know that they were complete amateurs, compared to the master Tristram Shandy! While my class just managed to make the analysis of the effects of crop rotation in the Industrial Revolution turn into something as closely related as revolutionary pop songs in the 21st century, Tristram manages to fill 8.5 hours of audiobook time to get born, while eagerly discussing his own nose, noses in general, his Uncle Toby, and the different dogmas of Protestants and Catholics, and several other important topics, including his name and the line of beauty and Don Quixote etc. etc. etc. (and I promise you that those enigmatic “etc” fill several hundred pages!). He accurately calculates that he won’t be able to finish the account of his life and opinions, as he is spending so much time on a couple of hours that he consistently accumulates years of backlog in his narrative. It runs in the family, as his father set out to write a pedagogical work for him, the Tristopaedia, which never caught up with the growing boy. While we glimpse quite a lot of Tristram’s family, their lives and their opinions, he is rather mum about his own person, always finding more important topics to talk about. Closing the novel, I know more about the mortality of Trim’s hat and about the amours of Uncle Toby than about Tristram himself. But that doesn’t really matter, for most of all, I know that the modern novel has some work to do to catch up with this experimental classic. What a pure joy to see the narrator tear the body of the novel open and show the scaffold of it in its artificial randomness. And what additional spice to get bits and pieces of Tristram’s erudition, wit, and sense of humour. Who needs a plot, anyway? Isn’t that more artificial in the end than a long dialogue on the pleasures and pains of dividing a work into chapters? Do I really need to know the details of a love story when the essence of love is rendered in alphabetical order instead? “Love is certainly, at least alphabetically speaking, one of the most Agitating Bewitching Confounded Devilish affairs of life - the most Extravagant Futilitous Galligaskinish Handy-dandyish Iracundulous (there is no K in it) and Lyrical of all human passions: at the same time, the most Misgiving Ninnyhammering Obstipating Pragmatical Stridulous Ridiculous - though by the bye the R should have gone first” As you can imagine, I could go on and on, from one thread to another, and still not be any closer to starting my review, so I will make a drastic decision, and urge you to let Tristram speak for himself instead - there is no one like him to speak anyway. Please read his digressions! They are much more amusing than I can adequately show you. I strongly recommend the audio version, as it forced me to sit still and not digress from the text in the way I might have otherwise, had I had the slightest chance. I recommend having a copy of the book next to you as well, as some pages are more interesting in a visual than in an auditive, not to mention narrative, way. To keep seated, I employed my hands with yarn as well, spinning my own threads into a warm poncho which will come in very handy when the teaching season starts again, - as will my time with Tristram, for I can’t imagine any lecture that could possibly prepare you better for the digressions of students than the life and opinions of Tristram Shandy! A superb experiment of a novel, and a unique voice in world literature! As for my review, I accidentally ripped it out of my Goodreads account and replaced it with this text instead. Sometimes things like that happen, and the original review is in the literary ether together with the missing chapter in Tristram Shandy. To tell the story of all those alternative texts, we would need the help of Borges and his Labyrinths. But that is another story - or two, or three...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    Before I began this book------ Now don’t climb on your hobby-horse, or rather, don’t pounce on your keyboard to tell me that I didn’t actually begin this book, that it was Laurence Sterne who began this book more than two hundred and fifty years ago, long before I was even a * in my mothers’s eye or an answering * in my father’s------ So, before I began reading this book, like many amongst you, I had preconceived ideas--- Yes, it is worth paying attention to the wording here because the Life and so Before I began this book------ Now don’t climb on your hobby-horse, or rather, don’t pounce on your keyboard to tell me that I didn’t actually begin this book, that it was Laurence Sterne who began this book more than two hundred and fifty years ago, long before I was even a * in my mothers’s eye or an answering * in my father’s------ So, before I began reading this book, like many amongst you, I had preconceived ideas--- Yes, it is worth paying attention to the wording here because the Life and some of the Opinions of Tristram Shandy relate to a time even before the moment of his own ✹---- But the Life and Opinions is still a good title, and the Opinions themselves, dating as they do from the 1760s, must have been preserved in the finest liquor to have retained such a freshness of spirit that you would think they had taken their first breath of Life a mere five minutes before--- Did I mention Time? But yes, before I began reading Sterne, I had a sort of bias against this innocent book----- No, not innocent as to what happens between its covers, no, for it treats of everything in the world and doesn’t mince its words in the telling, doesn’t strut about like a turkey cock but rather talks turkey, as in gets straight to the------- But to go back to where I began, that period of time before I picked up Shandy and conceived the fancy-- No, not that kind of fancy. Why is it that we humans are ever occupied by conceptions of a double-meaning nature, as if words were not already weighty enough without adding---- Although generally, at least today, few of us seem capable of constructing sentences fortified with the kind of ravelins or outworks favoured by Tristram’s uncle Toby and his trusty henchman Trim. For you must accept, if you are to read Sterne that the work is a very well fortified construction, that every sentence contains at least two facets or aspects, and each aspect faces off at an angle as in goes in a different direction and therefore the time taken to read---- Did I mention Time, because the notion, the very conception of Time is very central to any coherent understanding of the relationship between the writing of this book and the reading of it---- And speaking of the reading, we mustn't underestimate the importance of the Opinions of the reader; although not mentioned in the title, the Opinions of the reader are nevertheless------- The narrative, such as is, is interrupted by frequent digressions directed at the reader and when these asides are aimed in particular at the female reader, well------ Broadsides are not out of place to mention, in fact the terminology of the battlefield is used for even the most peaceful-sounding conversations, not to speak of matters amatory----- And although seemingly random, the trajectory of the narrative is very precisely plotted between order and chaos, between sense and nonsense, between mysteries and riddles, between the spiritual and the natural, between abstract philosophy and practical wisdom, between noses and----- Since the writer, together with his appendages, is always present in his own writing, just as every man is present at the shaving of his own beard, Laurence Sterne may also be--- We can’t but speculate that the subacid personality Sterne gives Tristram’s father, a man who is pedantically obtuse and razor-sharp at the same time, and the ridiculously cautious diplomacy he allows Tristram’s mother (though it is a clever and perfectly impenetrable protection against the father’s razor wit, and blunts it nicely from time to time), plus the childlike humanity with which he endows Tristram's uncle Toby----- But it is the character of the parson Yorick, who, like his namesake in Hamlet, that fellow of such ‘infinite jest’, has a great appreciation of nonsense which he allies with a paradoxical impatience of folly and verbosity, and the whole may give us the truest picture of Laurence---- I’m reminded of Joyce’s Man in the Macintosh, the ghost-like figure who flits in and out of Ulysses, and aren’t there many such elusive raincoated men in Beckett too----- So yes, I think Sterne may well have inserted himself into his own novel via Yorick, his Jester of a parson--- But for this speculation, I have no proof, at least ready, so I will_that point unless some hypercritick reader of this review wants to ↵ to it. The last word I will allow to Sterne: Therefore, my dear friend and companion (reader), if you should think me somewhat sparing of my narrative on my first setting out,---bear with me,----and let me go on, and tell my story my own way:---or if I should seem now and then to trifle upon the road,--or should sometimes put on a fool’s cap with a bell to it, for a moment or two as we pass along,--don’t fly off,--but rather courteously give me credit for a little more wisdom than appears upon my outside;-----and as we jog on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short, do any thing,-----only keep your temper. 

  3. 5 out of 5

    Renato Magalhães Rocha

    I failed big time in reviewing this. Oh well. I tried mentioning Sterne's style and his humor. I tried to include some of my favorite quotes and even show one of the cool drawings included. And I tried stating how much I loved it. However, when I finished and read it, it didn't do the book any justice at all. So all that's left for me to do is tell you to go read it. Rating: 5 stars This is one of those books we encounter in life that, despite being completely enchanted and raptured chapter after chap I failed big time in reviewing this. Oh well. I tried mentioning Sterne's style and his humor. I tried to include some of my favorite quotes and even show one of the cool drawings included. And I tried stating how much I loved it. However, when I finished and read it, it didn't do the book any justice at all. So all that's left for me to do is tell you to go read it. Rating: 5 stars This is one of those books we encounter in life that, despite being completely enchanted and raptured chapter after chapter, yet we wonder whether it's even possible to properly communicate these feelings to your fellow book addicts using only words. You, who is now reading this tentative review and who, unfortunately, have not yet heard much about The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, might about now be thinking that this is a profound, piercing read, that by making use of deep and emotional passages amazes us with its insights on life. If that's what you looking for in a book, you won't get it here. This is comedy! Heavily influenced by Don Quixote and Cervantes and his humor, lightness and stand-alone stories, Laurence Sterne was still able to be original and create a masterpiece of his own, taking the humor he found in the stories of the knight-errant and his squire to a whole new level, gracefully and, I must say, obscenely–although he was careful enough to thinly disguise it all in metaphors and many ******–not that it avoided him any criticism. While so influenced by another work, Tristram Shandy is still highly original and consequently inspired itself many writers with his style. Some believe Sterne to have been the forerunner of many narrative devices used by authors such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Speaking of great writers, I should add that Leo Tolstoy named Sterne his favorite author. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman was released in nine volumes throughout seven years (Vols. 1 & 2 in 1759; Vols. 3 & 4 in 1761; Vols. 5 & 6 in 1762; Vols. 7 & 8 in 1765; and finally, Vol. 9 in 1767). Luckily for us it is now just one volume divided by its chapters and subchapters. The book, as its title suggests, aims to tell the story of Tristram Shandy–he is writing his own biography. Our Tristram, however, can't tell a story from beginning to end even if it meant to save his life. He feels he has to go back in order to give us plenty of details and his own birth only happens in Vol. 3. From that you can get an idea of what you're getting yourself into! "What these perplexities of my uncle Toby were,——’tis impossible for you to guess;—if you could,—I should blush; not as a relation,—not as a man,—nor even as a woman,—but I should blush as an author; inasmuch as I set no small store by myself upon this very account, that my reader has never yet been able to guess at anything. And in this, Sir, I am of so nice and singular a humour, that if I thought you was able to form the least judgment or probable conjecture to yourself, of what was to come in the next page,—I would tear it out of my book.." Sterne himself, in the quote above, summarized perfectly what one should expect to find in his book–or how one shouldn't expect anything as it's very unlikely that his inventive mind would be matched. Mightily original in the events depicted on the book, he takes it even further with many different design features and digressions. In the drawing below (by the writer himself), he explains his narrative course in the first four volumes, swearing by us that the fifth would be finer - but would you take his word for it? "Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;——they are the life, the soul of reading!—take them out of this book, for instance,—you might as well take the book along with them;—one cold eternal winter would reign in every page of it; restore them to the writer;—he steps forth like a bridegroom,—bids All-hail; brings in variety, and forbids the appetite to fail." Speaking of digressions, while it might be extremely irritating for many who hoped for chronological progress and a steady narrative, to my taste, it was the highlight of this experience. Not only because it was a lot of fun, but also because it felt close to home as it seemed like the way my grandmother tells her stories: even the simplest event as "I didn't sleep well at all last night" comes with the physical description of her neighboor who also has trouble sleeping who has a brother that's a pharmacist (insert his background life story here) and his third degree relations with our family and how tonight she'll finally sleep as she'll not forget to take her pills–which was the reason of her insomnia. By digressing so much, Tristram is merely following his train of thought, without making any effort to order those ideas for his reader's convenience. Isn't that a simpler version of the stream of consciouness technique so hailed in the next centuries? While the former device follows wherever the narrator mind takes him, but still describing the events in a logical order, the latter strips more layers and simply exposes the very thought in a loose manner. "You must have a little patience. I have undertaken, you see, to write not only my life, but my opinions also (...) if you should think me somewhat sparing of my narrative on my first setting out—bear with me,—and let me go on, and tell my story my own way:—Or, if I should seem now and then to trifle upon the road,—or should sometimes put on a fool’s cap with a bell to it, for a moment or two as we pass along,—don’t fly off,—but rather courteously 9 give me credit for a little more wisdom than appears upon my outside;—and as we jog on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short, do anything,—only keep your temper." So, I urge you: do have patience with him. He's worth it! Film adaptation: well, what do you know? While I was reading the book I lamented that it was impossible to be filmed. Turns out it wasn't. A Cock and a Bull Story is a film-within-a-film released in 2005 by bold director Michael Winterbottom that tells the story of two actors (Steve Coogan and Rob Byrdon, playing themselves) who are shooting an adaptation of Sterne’s novel, but the film (Tristram) fails terribly–just as the book is about a man attempting to write his autobiography but never really succeeding while at it for he can’t properly tell his story without being distracted, the film is about an attempt at making a film. Winterbottom was happy in the majority of his choices and unlike many film adaptations I’ve watched, this one actually works. Review: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is one of those books I had heard about but never planned to actually read any time soon. Luckily, I was tempted by a group read and found a copy of a rare Portuguese translation (it's been out of print in Brazil for years) at the last minute. It's now absolutely one of my favorites: 5 very assymetric stars.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I would like to dedicate the following old review to a much missed GR friend, Bird Brian, who appears as a character in my review. He provided us with many hours of free entertainment with his great rants against every possible aspect of capitalism and the American government. But 50% of him left when Amazon bought GR, and the rest of him disappeared when the censorship controversy splurged all over our heads. And now he is not here to excoriate all the bad people and discover all the conspiraci I would like to dedicate the following old review to a much missed GR friend, Bird Brian, who appears as a character in my review. He provided us with many hours of free entertainment with his great rants against every possible aspect of capitalism and the American government. But 50% of him left when Amazon bought GR, and the rest of him disappeared when the censorship controversy splurged all over our heads. And now he is not here to excoriate all the bad people and discover all the conspiracies. **** NICHOLAS PARSONS: Welcome to "Just A Minute!" THEME MUSIC NP: Thank you, thank you, hello, my name is Nicholas Parsons. And as the Minute Waltz fades away once more it is my pleasure to welcome our many listeners, not only in this country but throughout the world. But also to welcome to the show this week four highly talented and individual players of this game. And once again they're going to show their invention, their verbal dexterity and their creative ingenuity as they speak on a subject that I give them for one minute, and they try and do that without hesitation, repetition or deviation. And this week our four contestants are Manny Rayner, Bird Brian, Paul Bryant and Ian Graye. Please welcome all four of them! (Applause). And we start this week with Manny Rayner – Manny, the subject is Tristram Shandy. Tell us something about that Manny, without hesitation, repetition or deviation starting now. MANNY : This is a novel written between 1759 and 1765 – BUZZZ! NP : And Bird Brian has challenged. What is your challenge? BB : Repetition of “seventeen”. MR : But that’s part of the designation of the year… 1953, 1954… NP : A harsh challenge but I’m going to have to agree with Brian – so BB you have a point and you have the subject of Tristram Shandy and there are 56 seconds left. BB : Ironically, given that Tristram Shandy is the epitome of deviation and digression, we here are supposed to discuss it without ourselves digressing – if I remember rightly it has been filmed as A Cock and Bull Story which was directed by Michael Winterbottom who also did Welcome to Sarajevo – BUZZ! NP : And Paul Bryant has challenged. PB : Well, it was all getting so terribly dull I thought I’d press this buzzer just to wake us up again. NP : But what is your challenge? Dullness is allowed in this panel game. PB : Well… he deviated by going on about Sarajevo. I could see he was just trying to drag politics into it again. NP : Well no, he only mentioned one other film, I don’t think that was really deviating from the subject. So Brian you have a point for an incorrect challenge and you continue with Tristram Shandy with 22 seconds left. BB : Er – BUZZ! Ian Graye : Hesitation. NP : Oh definitely. You have to keep going in this game, loquacity is the thing. So Ian you have 21 seconds left with Tristram Shandy. IG : This has got to be one of the most brilliant, funniest and – Buzz! NP : Er – who challenged there? Manny? MR : Deviation. I can’t understand his accent. NP: What? MR : He could be talking about anything , how would we know. NP : Well, er, he does have an Australian accent, of course, but I thought he was perfectly comprehensible… let’s ask the audience. Audience – can you understand Ian Graye? Audience : Mooo! PB : It’s hopeless asking that lot, they’re just a lot of sheep. Audience : Moo! Mooo! NP : So Ian that was a wrong challenge, you have a point and the subject is back with you, 19 seconds left for Tristram Shandy. Ian : Here is a novel that parodies many of the cliches of later novelists before they became – Buzz! PB : Repetition. NP : Repetition? PB : Yes, repetition of “novel”. Ian : No, I said “novel” and novelist” – two different words, like “wood” and “tree”, or is your dictionary different to mine? NP : Yes, he did you know. BB : Quite so. NP : So, another point for another wrong challenge and you have the subject back, Ian, 13 seconds starting now. IG : When I was – Buzz! MR : Deviation – he’s talking about himself now, not Tristram Shandy. NP : A very clever challenge! So you get a point for that and the subject back with you, 11 seconds for Tristram Shandy. MR : The full title is The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, which gives Lawrence Sterne ample leeway to throw a in lot of rabbiting about anything. I haven’t actually read this book – Buzz! NP : And Paul Bryant has challenged. PB : Deviation – if he hasn’t read it he can’t say anything about it and ought to leave it to those of us who have. NP : Well that’s er frankly ridiculous, I haven’t climbed Mount Everest but I can talk about it, I know facts about Mount Everest. PB : Now you’re deviating. What’s Mount Everest got to do with it? NP : But I’m the chairman, I’m allowed to repeat and hesitate and deviate. I relish my deviant status. PB : You’re in cahoots with him! – Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy! NP : Be that as it may, the subject is back with Manny and there are only three seconds left starting now. Manny : I fully intend to read this wonderful volume at the earliest – WHISTLE NP : And the sound of the whistle beautifully blown by our producer Samantha indicates the end of that – strenuous – round. Manny gets a point for speaking as the whistle went, and I can now reveal that the situation is that he is our joint leader with Ian, Bird Brian is next, and Paul Bryant yet to score. So we begin Round Two and the subject is Why I Am So Grumpy and Paul, you can begin with that, starting now.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    So many great discoveries were made absolutely unintentionally… Christopher Columbus was sailing to India and unexpectedly discovered America without any slightest suspicions. Laurence Sterne was writing some obscure petty biography and unawares discovered postmodernism. But the most weird and paradoxical thing about it is that he discovered postmodernism long before the modernists managed to discover modernism. It had ever been the custom of the family, and by length of time was almost become a mat So many great discoveries were made absolutely unintentionally… Christopher Columbus was sailing to India and unexpectedly discovered America without any slightest suspicions. Laurence Sterne was writing some obscure petty biography and unawares discovered postmodernism. But the most weird and paradoxical thing about it is that he discovered postmodernism long before the modernists managed to discover modernism. It had ever been the custom of the family, and by length of time was almost become a matter of common right, that the eldest son of it should have free ingress, egress, and regress into foreign parts before marriage, – not only for the sake of bettering his own private parts, by the benefit of exercise and change of so much air – but simply for the mere delectation of his fancy, by the feather put into his cap, of having been abroad. And at that he was a clergyman. Strange are your deeds, Oh Lord. But the most important thing is that God dictated to Laurence Sterne a universal postmodern rule: ‘never piss out of your window’.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    The Shandian Spawn “If on a friend’s bookshelf You cannot find Joyce or Sterne Cervantes, Rabelais, or Burton, “[Gaddis or Gass, Pynchon or McElroy, David Foster Wallace, William T Vollmann, Alexander Theroux or Gilbert Sorrentino,] “You are in danger, face the fact, So kick him first or punch him hard And from him hide behind a curtain.” ― Alexander Theroux [Ergänzung von "N.R."] Do I really have to say that again? But, so, let’s look at what Steven Moore claims to be the stream of spawn flowing f The Shandian Spawn “If on a friend’s bookshelf You cannot find Joyce or Sterne Cervantes, Rabelais, or Burton, “[Gaddis or Gass, Pynchon or McElroy, David Foster Wallace, William T Vollmann, Alexander Theroux or Gilbert Sorrentino,] “You are in danger, face the fact, So kick him first or punch him hard And from him hide behind a curtain.” ― Alexander Theroux [Ergänzung von "N.R."] Do I really have to say that again? But, so, let’s look at what Steven Moore claims to be the stream of spawn flowing forth from the narrative wealth of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. We begin at the very beginning, which is just after Sterne himself (this is not the proper way to begin ; one should begin at conception, back in Greece, Rome, China, India, Japan, etc, but that is what Moore’s Volume the First and much of Volume the Second were for) :: Voltaire’s Potpourri (1765), The Man with Forty Crowns (1768), and Lord Chesterfield’s Ears (1775) ; Diderot’s Jacques the Fatalist and His Master ; Xavier de Maistre’s Voyage around My Room ; some novels from the German likes of Wieland, Nicolai, Hippel, Wezel, Richter ; and the American novelist High Henry Brackenridge. So much for the 18th century. Lets’ continue into the 19th and 20th centuries using more or less Mr Moore’s words, because it is Mr Moore’s list and I am only reproducing it here because MORE PEOPLE NEED TO READ MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS KIND OF BOOK! You know, this kind of book tends to get BURIED. -- Also, one should read ALL of both of Moore’s novel-books because there are even MORE books found there that you’ve never heard of and with which you may find yourself IN LOVE. BEGIN QUOTATION OF STEVEN MOORE (notice the quotation marks) :: “Beginning in the 19th century, the trickle turned into a stream: the Shandy family genes can be detected in Charles Lucas’s Infernal Quixote (1801), Nicolai Wergeland’s Petty Incidents in the Life of Haldor Smek (1805-10), Washington Irving’s History of New York (1809), Ferenc Verseghy’s Merry Life and Ridiculous Opinions of Gergely Kolomposi Szarvas (1814-15), Thomas Love Peacock’s Headlong Hall (1815), Lord Byron’s verse-novel Don Juan (1818-23), which he called ‘a poetical T Shandy,’ E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr (1820-22), several of American John Neal’s novels (Randolph, Errata, Authorship), Yakov de Sanglen’s Life and Opinions of a New Tristram (1825), Charles Nodier’s Story of the King of Bohemia and His Seven Castles (1830), 19-year-old Karl Marx’s Scorpion and Felix (1837, unfortunately incomplete), Robert Southey’s Doctor (1834-47), Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (1836), Nicolai Gogol’s ‘Nose’ (1836; Pushkin called Gogol ‘the Russian Sterne’), Søren Kierkegaard’s Either-Or/Stages on Life’s Way diptych (1843-45), Almedia Garrett’s Travels in My Homeland (1846), Herman Melville’s Mardi (1849) and Moby-Dick (1851), Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865, 1871), Ippolito Nievo’s Castle of Fratta (1867), and earlier novels; Júlio Dinis’s English Family (1868), Carlo Dossi’s Life of Alberto Pisani (1870), Gustave Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pécuchet (1881), and in Joaquim Machado de Assis’s later novels. By the end of the century, Sterne’s spawn could be found throughout continental Europe, Scandinavia, and Russia.” [I’m still quoting Moore (notice the quotation marks) ; but here I’m gonna reformat into a columnar list, for read-abble’s-sake, since I can’t reproduce the typesetting on Moore’s page which is intended to intimate the shape of an ever-widening river.] “In the 20th century, the stream widened into a river, beginning with Natsume Soseki’s I Am a Cat, and including Miguel de Unamuno’s Mist, Andrei Bely’s Petersburg, James Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake (he cited Sterne when describing the latter), Vikto Shklovsky’s Sentimental Journey, Italo Svevo’s Confessions of Zeno, Andre Gide’s Counterfeiters, Luigi Pirandello’s One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand, Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, Stanislaw Witkiewicz’s Insatiability, Miklós Szentkuthy’s Prae, John Dos Passos’s USA, Juan Filly’s Op Oloop and Faction, Philip Wylie’s Finnley Wren and Opus 21, Witold Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke, Vladimir Nabokov’s Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds, Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, Macedonio Fernandez’s Museum of Eterna’s Novel, Kenneth Patchen’s Journal of Albion Moonlight, Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, Felipe Alfau’s Chromos, Louis Paul Boon’s Summer in Termuren, Günter Grass’s Tin Drum and Flounder, Jack Kerouac’s Old Angel Midnight (‘And Tristram Shraundy Shern, marvelous book’), Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch, Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s Three Trapped Tigers, Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America, William H. Gass’s Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife and The Tunnel, Steve Katz’s Exagggerations of Peter Prince, Venedikt Erofeev’s Moscow to the End of the Line, Ronald sukenick’s Up, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Donald Harington’s Some Other Place. The Right Place., Chandler Brossard’s A Chimney Sweep Comes Clean, Severo Sarduy’s Cobra, Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, Augusto Roa Bastos’s I the Supreme, José Lezama Lima’s Paradiso, Raymond Federman’s Take It or Leave It, Juan Goytisolo’s Juan the Landless, Fernando del Paso’s Palinuro of Mexico, Arno Schmidt’s Evening Edged in Gold, Portuguese collaborators Manuel da Silva Ramos and Alface’s experimental novels, David Markson’s Springer’s Progress, Georges Perec’s Life a User’s Manual, Ignácio de Loyola Brandão’s Zero, Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler, Alfredo Bryce Echenique’s A World for Julius, Gilbert Sorrentino’s Mulligan Stew, Alexander Theroux’s Darconville’s Cat, D. Keith Mano’s Take Five, Salman Rushdies’ Midnight’s Children, Genichiro Takahashi’s Sayonora, Gangsters, Julián Ríos’s Larva, Aladair Gray’s 1982, Janine and Old Men in Love Aldo Busi’s Standard Life of an Ordinary Pantyhose Salesman, George Garrett’s Poison Pen, Carlos Fuentes’s Christopher Unborn, Jacques Roubaud’s Great Fire of London, Fernando Arrabal’s Extravagant Crusade of a Castrated Man in Love, Thomas McGonigle’s Going to Patchogue, David Foster Wallace’s novels and some of William T. Vollmann’s, Héctor Abad Faciolince’s Joy of Being Awake, Javier Marías Dark Back of Time (written after he had translated Tristram Shandy into Spanish), Haruki Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Matthew Remski’s Silver, Walter Moer’s 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, Joseph Heller’s Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man, several of Percival Everett’s novels, Daniel Sada’s Porque parece mentira la verdad nunca se sabe, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Robert Juan-Cantavella’s Otro, Per Højholt’s Aruicula, Robert Coover’s Lucky Pierre, Steve Tomasula’s VAS, Enrique Vila-Matas’s Montano’s Malady, Jasper Fforde’s ffictions Gordon Sheppard’s Ha!, Paul Anderson’s Hunger’s Brides, Adam Thirwell’s Politics, Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen, James McCourt’s Now Voyagers, Joshua Cohen’s Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto, Evan Dara’s Easy Chain, Lee Henerson’s Man Game, Benjamin Zucker’s talmudic trilogy, Matthew Roberson’s Impotent, John McGreal’s Book of It, Lawrence Sutin’s When to Go into the Water, Adam Levin’s Instructions, Arthur Phillip’s Tragedy of Arthur, Sergio De La Pava’s Personae, Tom Carson’s Daisy Buchanan’s Daughter, Jan Brandt’s Gegen die Welt, Mark Leyner’s Sugar Frosted Nutsack, Will Self’s Umbrella, Chris Eaton’s Chris Eaton --” [continues Moore] “-- I’ll stop there, for as Calvino wrote in 1981, Tristram Shandy is the ‘undoubted progenitor of all avant-garde novels of our century.’” Moore goes on to make a “three degrees of separation or fewer to Laurence Sterne” kind of a claim ; by way of such renown’d fictioneers as “Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoy, Eliot, and Twain.” BUT :: you’ll notice what is not on this list ; same thing that’s not on many such lists ; in fact, it is missing the same thing which is missing on most of my lists -- female authors. Let’s listen in on Moore’s footnote about his anomoly :: [I begin quoting Moore again ; notice the quotation marks] “That list, you’ve probably noticed, is a total sausage fest; the daughters of Tristram Shandy might include Djuna Barnes’s Ryder, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Brigid Brophy’s In Transit, Julieta Campos’s Fear of Losing Eurydice, Gabrielle Burton’s Heartbreak Hotel, Jaimy Gordon’s Shamp of the City-Solo, Janice Galloway’s Trick Is to Keep Breathing (‘This book resembles Tristram Shandy as rewritten by Sylvia Plath’ --NYTBR), Sarah Schulman’s Empathy, Jeanette Winterson’s Gut Symmetries, Helen DeWitt’s Last Samurai, Heather Woodbury’s What Ever, Cintra Wilson’s Colors Insulting to Nature, Vanessa Place’s La Medusa, Nicola Barker’s Darkmans, Emilie Autumn’s Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, Carol Hart’s History of the Novel in Ants, Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?, certain novels by Kathy Acker, Christine Brooke-Rose, Rikki Ducornet, Thalia Field, Xiaolu Guo, Carole Maso, Ali Smith, and Aritha Van Herk, and some formally innovative YA novels by the likes of Susie Day, E. Lockhart, and Lauren Myracle. But Sterne’s cocktail of comic erudition, slap-and-tickle sexuality, bittersweet sentimentalism, and achronological form doesn’t seem to attract many women writers -- or women readers, according to Professor Elizabeth Terries. She says in her career she’s taught Tristram Shandy to nearly 500 female students, and estimates ‘not more than twenty enjoyed reading Sterne’s work or will ever return to it.’” So. The foregoing list -- which belongs to Mr Steven Moore and was originally published in his The Novel: An Alternative History, 1600-1800 -- shall, in the near future, be incarnated yet again in the form of a Listopia list, curtesy of Friend Aubrey. I’ll link to it from here at that time. For a similar kind of Wonder=List (and much duplication), I’ve got a Rabelaisian list over there in my Rabelais Review. You won’t have difficulty finding it. It’s fantastic!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “Shall we for ever make new books, as apothecaries make new mixtures, by pouring only out of one vessel into another?” ― Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman A POEM IN WHICH IS A CELEBRATION BY NEGATION or, a repartee on jeopardy. If on a friend’s bookshelf You cannot find Joyce or Sterne Cervantes, Rabelais, or Burton, You are in danger, face the fact, So kick him first or punch him hard And from him hide behind a curtain. ― Alexander Theroux* I was (of course) destined t “Shall we for ever make new books, as apothecaries make new mixtures, by pouring only out of one vessel into another?” ― Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman A POEM IN WHICH IS A CELEBRATION BY NEGATION or, a repartee on jeopardy. If on a friend’s bookshelf You cannot find Joyce or Sterne Cervantes, Rabelais, or Burton, You are in danger, face the fact, So kick him first or punch him hard And from him hide behind a curtain. ― Alexander Theroux* I was (of course) destined to love this book. Just look at my love for/on Montaigne, Cervantes & Burton. J'adore big books full of absurdity and digressions and allusions. This is the ... THE ... grand-pappa of the modern novel; the paterfamilis of all things Shandy. Looking into the black night after emerging with a book from my mother's womb, I dreamt of THIS book among the stars. Sterne's Tristam existed for me before I read it. It was like a song whose tune you hum in your head for years, before identifying the tune with an actual song. Tristram Shandy was playing in the background as I read Joyce, Nabokov, Kerouac, Vonnegut, Murakami, Pynchon, DFW, Rushdie, Woolf, etc. Hell, even Karl Marx loved this book. But now, I find myself debating on whether I will be content with my Modern Library (Fokenflik intro and notes) version or if I need to go buy the Visual Edition or the Florida Edition. IF this seems like an odd obsession after reading/finishing Tristram Shandy, perhaps you haven't read it. It just isn't one of those books you really escape from. I keep digressing back into the novel because you keep recognizing the novel in other novels and movies and people. I look at Mandelbrot sets and think THIS is Tristram Shandy with its digressions, repetitions, and spawn. I look at the endnotes of DFW and think, this IS a Shandian experiment. I look at Vonnegut's picture of an * asshole (pg 81) in BreakFast of Champions and think: this is a Shandian experiment. Sterne was postModern before postModern was cool. Reading Tristram Shandy is like discovering that someone in the 18th century had already built a working computer, but that all it did was spit out a long sequence of digressions. Anyway, my wife informed me that she loved just watching me read (so this is now a voyeur review) Sterne because I would spit, giggle, choke, and squirm every page. I would wiggle and twist as Sterne would allude to the classics and twist the logic and satirize everyone from Robert Burton to Jonathan Swift to William Warburton. I can't say this novel isn't appreciated. Those who have read it get it, but it isn't appreciated enough. I imagine it will be like discovering Frank Zappa in 200 years. A future me will be looking at old YouTube videos and will think GOD why didn't more people appreciate him? * props to Nathan N.R. Gaddis for uncovering/exposing this poem.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    Dedication This was a re-read of a novel that I first read when I was about 14 and that has stayed fresh in my mind ever since. It was recommended to me by my cricket coach and favourite teacher, John Carr, who taught me English for five years and cemented my passion for Literature in the early 70’s. His Master’s Thesis was on Evelyn Waugh’s "Sword of Honour” Trilogy (which I’ve also read and plan to re-read). I was amused to learn from Steven Moore that one John Carr rushed out a fake version of Dedication This was a re-read of a novel that I first read when I was about 14 and that has stayed fresh in my mind ever since. It was recommended to me by my cricket coach and favourite teacher, John Carr, who taught me English for five years and cemented my passion for Literature in the early 70’s. His Master’s Thesis was on Evelyn Waugh’s "Sword of Honour” Trilogy (which I’ve also read and plan to re-read). I was amused to learn from Steven Moore that one John Carr rushed out a fake version of volume 3 of "Tristram Shandy” four months before Laurence Sterne had published his own version. Long live homage and fan fiction! This review is dedicated to both John Carr’s, one a teacher and the other a shit stirrer! "Let Me Go On, and Tell My Story My Own Way” The version of the novel that I read was 528 pages long. Don’t be afraid of the perceived length. The chapters are short and easy to read, plus it’s a lot of fun, once you get into the rhythm of the writing. Like a slippery slide, the hardest part is getting on; the rest is all downhill. If you read anything about "Tristram Shandy”, you’ll discover it is full of digressions. This is only partly true. The assessment assumes that there is a path from which the author departs. It’s probably more accurate to say that he never embarks on a set path in the first place. If a line can be said to be the shortest distance between two points, Sterne never really sets out to get from A to B, or to do it efficiently or quickly. He simply sits down to tell his story his way, as if we readers were sitting across from him at a pub or smoking our pipes in front of a fireplace. He’s in no hurry, but equally importantly neither are we. He simply asks that we let him get on and tell his story his own way. Left to his own devices, he is individualistic and unconventional, and so is his novel. In Which the Author Turns a Story Into a Plot Steven Moore differentiates between a story and a plot: "The story consists of the events in a novel as they would occur in chronological order; the plot refers to the novelist’s particular arrangements of those events.” While Moore identifies the three key elements of the story, I don’t think they’re particularly important. What is most appealing is the methodology Sterne uses to convert them into a plot. For me, the most interesting aspects of the novel are the self-referential discussions of the writing of the novel and the relationship between author, work and reader. These aspects are pure metafiction, and you could argue that no author has bettered them, before or after. The Beauty of the Line (or the Line of Beauty) The prevailing view of a narrative in a traditional realistic novel is linear. In the interests of efficiency and speed (i.e., distance travelled divided by time), the plot can be described in terms of a straight line. A straight line has a mathematical and a scientific significance. However, it also has a moral, creative and social significance. A straight line does not deviate to the left or the right. If we don’t deviate, we stay on the straight and narrow. Christians say it is the right path or the path of the righteous. Cicero describes it as "an emblem of moral rectitude”. If the line is vertical, it is upright or virtuous. If something falls from its top to its bottom, it experiences a divine gravitational force. By extension, the righteous feel gravitas. Etymologically, all of these words are related: straight, direct, erect, right, upright, rectitude, righteous. The physical qualities morph into the moral and from there (via recht) into the legal. Just as the right-handed ostracise the left-handed, the straight ostracise the bent, the crooked, the digressive and the divergent. It’s this that Sterne rebels against. He never sets out to follow the straight and narrow. His goal, so long as his neck remains flexible, is to follow his nose and his gaze, wherever they might lead him. And where he goes, so does his tale. It’s our pleasure and privilege to accompany him. The Life of Beauty Sterne takes a straight line and bends or curves it. He makes it more curvaceous, until it is closer to a line of beauty in the sense meant by Hogarth in his “Analysis of Beauty”. To quote wiki: "According to this theory, S-shaped curved lines signify liveliness and activity and excite the attention of the viewer as contrasted with straight lines, parallel lines, or right-angled intersecting lines, which signify stasis, death, or inanimate objects.” Thus, Sterne’s aversion for a straight line reflects an attraction to vitality, motion and dynamism. "Tristram Shandy” is nothing if not about vitality. "So vary'd he, and of his tortuous train Curl'd many a wanton wreath, in fight of Eve, To lure her eye." Milton Of Riddles and Mysteries Sterne’s objection to the straight line is also an objection to the logical processes that appear to govern our understanding of the world. He doesn’t necessarily come across as a mystic. However, it seems that we need at least intuition to experience and enjoy the best that the world has to offer: "We live amongst riddles and mysteries - the most obvious things, which come in our way, have dark sides, which the quickest sight cannot penetrate into, and even the clearest and most exalted understandings amongst us find ourselves puzzled and at a loss in almost every cranny of nature's works.” Sterne objects to the plain, the joyless, the boring, that which lacks interest: "There is nothing more pleasing to a traveller, or more terrible to travel-writers, than a large rich plain...[that presents nothing to the eye, but one unvaried picture of plenty.]” Of Conquests and Concupiscence While form might override content in "Tristram Shandy”, it does rear its head in the last trimester of the novel, when it becomes clear that the true concern of the characters, both male and female, is sex. They are, one and all, seeking "something perhaps more than friendship, less than love,” at least to start with. In retrospect, much of the dialogue is just playful or flirtatious or "talking bawdy”, as was the case with Sterne’s predecessor, Rabelais. The ultimate goal, for a male, is to tempt a pretty woman "into a conversation with a pinch of snuff”: "Why could not a man sit down in the lap of content here, and dance and sing and say his prayers and go to heaven with this nut-brown maid?” Ironically, this was in France, which elsewhere Sterne would describe as "foutre-land”, though I confess I can’t give an accurate contemporary translation of the term. Love and lust and amours (in which the reader longs for uncle Toby to get his oats) consist of thrusts and parries, just as much as any military battle. Fortifications and defences are broken down. Seductions follow campaigns and sieges (if you’re lucky). Of the Love Between an Author and a Reader So, ultimately, Sterne seems to argue, "talking of love is making it.” If so, then you might well agree, what’s the hurry? One lover’s digression is another’s foreplay. The point is to be aligned, if not vertically, at least horizontally. Equally, the process of writing and reading follows some of the rules of attraction and love, at least to the extent that it depends on good communication and the sharing of the creative burdens between the two participants: "Writing, when properly managed, is but a different name for conversation…The truest respect which you can pay to the reader’s understanding, is to halve this matter amicably, and leave him something to imagine, in his turn, as well as yourself.” Thus, when the pleasure is equally shared, it’s possible that Tristram wasn’t necessarily complaining when he moaned, “the more I write, the more I shall have to write.” Perhaps what he really meant was that, the more I love, the more I shall have to love. If this sounds like a "fertile fancy” or mere exaggeration, then, like Sterne: "I beg the reader will assist me here...” SOUNDTRACK: Van Morrison - "Help Me" (from the live album "It's Too Late to Stop Now") https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn3GW... Van Morrison - "Help Me" (Live at Montreux Jazz, 2012) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As03J... Sonny Boy Williamson - "Help Me" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPeP3... Christelle Berthon - "Help Me" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xePm... http://www.harmonica-online.com/artis...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    The name of this review in its saved document is “Review Tristram Shandy NEEDS A FULLER REVIEW”. Hence this fuller review, dashed off in a few minutes, or tens or twenties or thirties of minutes. Which of course reminds us, as Montaigne once wrote, “The hour of parleying is dangerous.” But given that truth, what am I to say about my own parleying with Sterne, if it goes on beyond an hour? or achieves its end in less than an hour? By whom would this danger be faced? By I the writer? Or by you the The name of this review in its saved document is “Review Tristram Shandy NEEDS A FULLER REVIEW”. Hence this fuller review, dashed off in a few minutes, or tens or twenties or thirties of minutes. Which of course reminds us, as Montaigne once wrote, “The hour of parleying is dangerous.” But given that truth, what am I to say about my own parleying with Sterne, if it goes on beyond an hour? or achieves its end in less than an hour? By whom would this danger be faced? By I the writer? Or by you the reader? And what danger would need confrontation? The danger of boredom? The danger of falling off a chair? The danger of mistakenly imbibing the Amanita bisporigera (destroying angel as it’s known commonly)? Perhaps, to cut to the chase and make once again a reference to Stern himself, by obliquely referring to one of his favorite sources of quotations, the danger of melancholy!? We shall perhaps return to these sharp questions. Or perhaps not. At any rate … 4 1/2. I can't quite up this to a 5 since - well, of course I could, and perhaps should. After all, five in the Bible is significant because God’s creation - 'man' – and ‘woman’ too, we are told - has five fingers, five senses and five toes; not four and one-half of each – nor does man and woman in fact have five hands or five feet – though of course when we speak of the length, that is height, of a man or woman the achievement of having five feet, or even more, is by no means unusual. And thus to continue, five is the number of God's grace, and by giving Sterne’s book five stars – which by the by I will in fact allow myself to do at this late date, so in that manner to confront the Lord with a five star rating, and challenge Him – or is it Her? – to bless this review with bountiful victuals … aha, haha, and la-de-da, that slip reveals that eating, or at least the thought of snacking, has slipped into my mind, slipped out of my belly perhaps, wriggled upwards through the grams, ounces, pounds, stone [note the correct plural used for the units Sterne himself would have used for measuring the massivity of men/women/anything-else] of my flesh straight into the noncorporeal organ of thought; which circumstance reminds us of Gluttony, and the harm which is visited upon both body and soul by that Cardinal sin, so that, in Burton’s words, “As a lamp is choked with a multitude of oil, or a little fire with overmuch wood quite extinguished, so is the natural heat with immoderate eating strangled in the body. Perniciosa sentina est abdomen insaturabile, which means “that goes double for immoderate snacking”. And verily, I hence cross out my original reason for withholding the blessed five thus ---->> by my criteria I'd have to believe I might read it a second time, and I don't think that's likely, more because of the length than anything else. However, a problem here arises, for I have in effect crossed out as well the very phrase which appears in bold as the first few words of this modest paragraph. Thus I implore the reader to substitute, in their own mind (or whatever they use for thinking/perceiving) the words Five stars. 4 1/2. I can't quite up this to a 5 since for that "very phrase" referred to in the previous sentence. But we will return to this repast/riposte later. Or perhaps not. Anyway … It is a very impressive piece of literature, and extremely funny in many, many parts. And here I can again strike out -----> Hopefully I will write a more illuminating review at some point. because, this more illuminating review is here present and accounted for, my confidence in this increased illumination, or light if you will, illustrating as Montaigne said, that “this strong confidence can only be manifested, natural and entire, by those who are not terrified by the thought of death …” Be that as it may, let us put aside thoughts of death for the present, and return to them aplenty later. But maybe we won’t, it is something of a downer, which recalls the subject/topic/thesis/adumbration/ what-have-you of melancholy – leading to the great Burton and his comment on natural death, that “Calenus and his Indians hated of old to die a natural death: the Circumcellions and Donatists, loathing life, compelled others to make them away: but these are false and pagan positions, profane Stoical paradoxes, wicked examples; it boots not what heathen philosophers determine in this kind, they are impious, abominable, and upon a wrong ground”. He could as well have said “upon a wrong hobby horse”, but regardless, the question becomes, if we hark back to Gluttony, whether or not death by Gluttony is a natural or unnatural death. I started reading it as an e-book, and persevered through Volume V chapter III, almost half way. At that point I bought a used copy of the Oxford World's Classics edition, which in the number and arcane references of its notes made me think of Joyce's Ulysses. I highly recommend this edition, which also includes a 25 page introduction (not yet read by me), an eight page bibliography, and those 60+ pages of Explanatory Notes (in small print). I can aver that that piece of narrative seems quite apposite to a review, hence find no inclination to strike it from the increased illumination cast on it in the presence of this enlarged review. But speaking of large reviews, my thoughts range to large reviews I have penned (well of course “penned” is inaccurate, we in modern times use not pens for composition or to hold free-range animals) – but let “penned” stand, if the pen fall down the thoughts will stray away – which phrase, though not actually used in the review, does bring to mind the essay/review/narrative/story I penned/wrote/typed/composed/brought-to-light/whatever/blah-blah-blah about the book The Things They Carried, and specifically within that review/narrative/story/essay the lengthy quotation I presented from the author’s brilliant story/chapter Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, and more specifically, the final section of that story, introduced with the words, “And then one morning, all alone, Mary Anne walked off into the mountains and did not come back.” Which was naturally what that phrase “stray away” would, I think, remind anyone of. By this time, I think I've wrapped all loose ends of this review around each other, tangled into an impenetrable knot, such that readers will gratefully escape further comments, unless they already have escaped - in which case they and I are equally in the dark about my ultimate motives. On that note – B-flat it sounds like – I’ll turn off the illumination, much as I would enjoy continuing this beyond whatever time it has taken, but heedful of Montaigne’s warning about parleying and danger, I will leave the review as it now stands – or falls. If you enjoy 18th century classics (or earlier ones, such as Montaigne, Burton, Bacon - because of Sterne’s references to his antecedents), you should be all means give this a try.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    Hindsight is a beaut! I should have written separate reviews for each of the original nine Shandy volumes, since I just spend about two days just trying to put some order into my multitudinous notes and now I have enough material and food for thought for at least nine reviews. This book is a glorious, licentious, philosophical mess designed right from the start in a labyrinthine manner by one of the brightest and sharpest wits of our literary pantheon. I thought, when I first noticed the glowing Hindsight is a beaut! I should have written separate reviews for each of the original nine Shandy volumes, since I just spend about two days just trying to put some order into my multitudinous notes and now I have enough material and food for thought for at least nine reviews. This book is a glorious, licentious, philosophical mess designed right from the start in a labyrinthine manner by one of the brightest and sharpest wits of our literary pantheon. I thought, when I first noticed the glowing reviews of my friends, that they were using hyperbole when they claimed this to be one of the very first post-modernist, experimental novels, but it quickly became apparent that they were right : from Salman Rushdie to Italo Calvino or from David Foster Wallace to Louis de Bernieres, Blackadders or Monty Pythons, you can't help noticing the same rambling narrative structure, the satirical tone, the joy of absurdist humour, the pseudo-scientific rants and the bawdy, low-brow content riding side by side with moving, insightful glimpses at universal truths about human nature. What was less obvious, and became clear only with the help of the plentiful Penguin footnotes, is how much Laurence Sterne is not an accidental genius, but very much a man of his times and a canny magpie who has little remorse in lifting the best ideas, characters and even wholesale paragraphs from the works of his contemporaries and forerunners. Rabelais is a primary source, as is Robert Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy", but there are numerous references and 'borrowings' from Swift, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Locke and the Greek or Roman classics. Sterne's achievement is not only to integrate all these disparate sources into his discourse, but to provide a critical, pertinent commentary on the salient points and on the shortcomings of each. Also worth noting is Sterne love for the English language, the playful anarchy of his pleonasms, archaism and nonce words. Probably, had I been forced to read this in highschool, I would have hated it with a vengeance. It's dense, it has no plot (it takes three volumes for the main character to be born), you need a heavy dictionary close at hand and Sterne's phrase construction would make Faulkner envious. Some of the views embraced by Sterne are less palatable than others - attacks on atheists, mysoginy, theories linking racial profiles to climate, his disparaging of the French and of Catholics, etc. Even now, in my almost dottage, the lecture was occasionaly a chore and soporific, but the joy of making sense of a bawdy joke or a heart to heart conversation directly addressed to the readership ("may it please your worships!") more than made up for the effort put in. Had Sterne been granted a reprieve from the merciless illness that put him in an early grave and written the forty Shandy volumes he had promised us, I'm sure I would have eventually read them all. (I still wonder how Trim would have finished his tale of the King of Bohemia) What is the book really about? It says right on the cover : the life and times of Tristram Shandy, and alter ego of the author, a man of his times born under an unlucky star (his father's 'homunculus' got distracted right after it left the starting gate) and bad luck seems to follow Tristram all through his journey through life. Another alter-ego of the author is the pastor Yorick, a transparent reference to "Hamlet"and a self-portrait of Sterne as the tragic court jester who is the only one capable of speaking truth to power. For the internet age, I have a third analogy of the author as an early incarnation of that virtual animal, the perfect troll, a thorn in the side ("obstreperated" is Sterne's choice of descriptor) of his pompous, rigid minded and pious contemporaries: Tristram's father, mother and especially his uncle Toby with an assortment doctors, lawyers, clerics, chambermaids, valets, etc. provide the bulk of the narrative, with authorial intervention and breaking of the fourth wall providing the rest. Hobby Horses, or the miriad ways people engage in passionate and/or silly endeavours, are another common thread that meanders through the pages of all nine volumes. >><<>><<>><<>><< Having finished my woefully short introduction and being too lazy to embark on a detailed analysis of the themes and, still pertinent today, satirical observations of the autor, I decided to let his words speak for themselves. Let's see how many of my favorite passages I can include in the space allocated by Goodreads for a proper review! [If your worships feel like skipping the long section of quotes, here's a one line clincher : "By the trotting of my lean horse, the thing is incredible!" ] >><<>><<>><<>><<>><< On the subject of non-linear narration and digressions: Could a historiographer drive on his history, as a muleteer drives on his mule, - straightforward... for instance from Rome all the way to Loretto, without ever once turning his head aside either to the right hand or to the left - he might venture to foretell you to an hour when he should get to his journey's end; ... but the thing is, morally speaking, impossible: For, if he is a man of the least spirit, he will have fifty deviations from a straight line to make with this or that party as he goes along, which he can no way avoid. He will have views and prospects to himself perpetually solliciting his eye, which he can no more help standing still to look at than he can fly; he will moreover have various Accounts to reconcile: Anecdotes to pick up: Inscriptions to make out: Stories to weave in: Traditions to sift: Personages to call upon: Panygericks to post at his door: Pasquinades at that: ... All which both the man and his mule are quite exempt from. Speaking of mules, here's sample of Sterne's bawdy jokes: My father had a favourite little mare, which he had consigned over to the most beautiful Arabian horse, in order to have a pad out her for his own riding: he was sanguine in all his projects; so he talked about his pad every day with as absolute a security, as if it had been reared, broke, and bridled and saddled at his door ready for mounting. By some neglect or other in Obadiah, it so fell out, that my father's expectations were answered with nothing better than a mule, and as ugly a beast of the kind as ever was produced. My mother and my uncle Toby expected my father would be the death of Obadiah - and that there never would be an end of the disaster. - See here! you rascal, cried my father, pointing to the mule, what have you done! - It was not me, said Obadiah. - How do I know that? replied my father. To continue with the literary theory, in defence of meandering, according to Tristram Shandy: 'Tis to rebuke a vicious taste which has crept into thousands beside herself, - of reading straight forwards, more in quest of the adventures, than of the deep erudition and knowledge which a book of this cast, if read over as it should be, would infallibly impart to them --- The mind should be accustomed to make wise reflections, and draw curious conclusions as it goes along. [...] I wish it may have its effects, and that all good people, both male and female, from her example, may be taught to think as well as read. also, Digressions, incontenstably, are the sun-shine --- they are the life, the soul of reading --- take them out of this book for instance, you might as well take the book along with them - one cold eternal winter would reign on every page of it; restore them to the writer ... he steps forth like a bridegroom, bids All Hail; brings in variety, and forbids the appetite to fail. Throwing the gauntlet at his critics who complained about the lack of plot and the rambling nature of the novel, Sterne accuses them of intellectual laziness. Dare I bring James Joyce in here too, and mention Shandy as a precursor of the stream of consicence novel? Pourquoi pas: Pray, Sir, in all the reading you have ever read, did you ever read such a book as Locke's Essay upon the Human Understanding? --- Don't anser me rashly, because many, I know, quote the book, who have not read it, and many have read it who understand it not: --- If either of these is your case, as I write to instruct, I will tell you in three words what the book is. - It is a history. --- A history! of who? what? where? when? --- Don't hurry yourself. --- It is a history-book, Sir, (which may possibly recommend it to the world) of what passes in a man's own mind; and if you will say so much of the book, and no more, believe me, you will cut no contemptible figure in a metaphysic circle. In defense of satire and in response to those critics who say that wit and judgement in this world never go together, Sterne replies: so are farting and hiccuping , adding that: ... an illustration is no argument, - nor do I maintain the wiping of a looking-glass clean, to be a syllogism; - but you all, may it please your worships, see the better for it, - so that the main good these things do, is only to clarify the understanding, previous to the application of the argument itself, in order to free it from any little motes, or specks of opacular matter, which if left swimming therein, might hinder a conception and spoil all. Sterne's crusade against backward thinking and fake puritanism continues by quoting la Rochefoucauld : Gravity is a mysterious carriage of the body to cover the defects of the mind. and Epictetus : We are tormented with the opinions we have of things, and not by things themselves. (alternate translation : Not practicalities trouble human beings, but dogmas concerning them ) The back and forth with the critics with regard with satirical, bawdy writing includes both defense and attack: Certainly there is a difference between Bitterness and Saltness, that is, between the malignity and the festivity of wit, --- the one is mere quickness of apprehension, void of humanity, and is a talent of the devil; the other comes down from the Father of Spirits, so pure and abstracted from persons, that willingly it hurts no man ... vs (in a recap of the first eight volumes), What a wilderness has it been! and what a mercy that we have not both of us been lost, or devoured by wild beasts in it. Did you think the world itself, Sir, had contained such a number of Jack asses? --- How they view'd and review'd us as we passed over the rivulet at the bottom of that little valley! --- And when we climbed over that hill, and were just getting out of sight - good God! what a braying did they all set up together! Before I continue, I believe Sterne's praise of Cervantes also belongs in this section on satire: True Shandeism, think what you will against it, opens the heart and lungs, and like all those affections which partake of its nature, it forces the blood and other vital fluids of the body to run freely thro' its channels, and makes the wheel of life run long and cheerfully round. To be honest, Sterne's taste in risque humour would raise a few eyebrows even today. Here's valet Trim receiving a massage from a Beguine in Flanders, after being injured in the knee: I perceived, then, I was beginning to be in love --- As she continued rub-rub-rubbing - I felt it spread from under her hand, an' please your honour, to every part of my frame --- The more she rubb'd, and the longer strokes she took --- the more the fire kindled in my veins --- till at length, by two or three strokes longer than the rest --- my passion rose to the highest pitch --- I seiz'd her hand --- --- And then, thou clapped'st it to thy lips, Trim, said my uncle Toby --- and madest a speech. Whether the corporal's amour terminated precisely in the way my uncle Toby described it, is not material; it is enough that it contain'd in it the essence of all the love-romances which ever have been wrote since the beginning of the world. Uncle Toby is an innocent, one of Sterne's favorite characters in the novel, the side of the balance that compensates for all the malign fools the author probably encountered in life. Here's a passionate defense of Toby: Peace and comfort rest for evermore upon thy head! Thou envied'st no man's comforts, - insulted'st no man's opinions, - thou blackened'st no man's character, - devoured'st no man's bread; gently with faithful Trim behind thee, didst thou amble round the little circle of thy pleasures, jostling no creature in thy way; - for each one's service [funeral] thou had shed a tear, - for each man's need, thou hadst a shilling. Still, innocents make great foils for the jokes of their friends: Methinks, brother, replied my father, you might, at least, know so much as the right end of a woman from the wrong. --- Right end, --- quoth my uncle Toby, muttering the two words low to himself, and fixing his two eyes insensibly as he muttered them, upon a small crevice, form'd by a bad joint in the chimney-piece. --- Right end of a woman! --- I declare, quoth my uncle, I know no more which it is, than the man in the moon; --- and if I was to think, continued my uncle Toby, (keeping his eye still fix'd upon the bad joint) this month together, I am sure I should not be able to find it. Maybe widow Wadham can help Toby find his way around the gentler sex ( I was confident the following memoirs of my uncle Toby's courtship of widow Wadman, whenever I got time to write them, would turn out one of the most compleat systems, both of the elementary and practical part of love and love-making, that ever was addressed to the world. )... Sterne's issues a stern warning though: A daughter of Eve, for such was widow Wadman, and 'tis all the character I intend to give of her - "That she was a perfect woman" - had better be fifty leagues off, or in her warm bed, or playing with a case-knife, or any thing you please - than make a man the object of her attention, when the house and all the furniture is her own. There is nothing in it out of doors and in broad day-light, where a woman has power, physically speaking, of viewing a man in more lights than one - but here, for her soul, she can see him in no light without mixing something of her own goods and chattels along with him - till by reiterated acts of such combinations, he gets foisted into her inventory --- - And then good night. Sterne, for all his bawdy jokes and slightly mysoginistic comments on women, would not live in a world without love (a passage borrowed from Rabelais): Love is certainly, at least alphabetically speaking, one of the most Agitating Bewitching Confounded Devilish affairs of life - the most Extravagant Futilitous Galligaskinish Handy-dandyish Iracundulous (here is no K to it) and Lyrical of all human passions: at the same time, the most Misgiving Ninnyhammerinh Obstipating Pragmatical Stridulous Ridiculous - though by the bye the R should have gone first - But in short 'tis of such a nature, as my father once told my uncle Toby upon the close of a long dissertation upon the subject - "you can scarce," said he, "combine two ideas together upon it, brother Toby, without a hypallage" ... What's that? cried my uncle Toby. The cart before the horse, replied my father --- --- And what has he to do there? cried my uncle Toby --- Nothing, quoth my father, but to get in --- or let it alone. Uncle Toby is a fine illustration of wit without malice, and Sterne's position is made clear in more than one passionate defense of temperance and forgiveness: ... being determined as long as I live and write (which in my case means the same thing) never to give the honest gentleman a worse word or a worse wish, than my uncle Toby gave the fly which buzz'd about his nose all dinner time, --- "Go, - go poor devil," quoth he, - get thee gone, - why should I hurt thee? This world is surely wide enough to hold both thee and me." Toby is also a great illustration of the power of Hobby-Horses - in his case pyroballogy and castle sieges- which can be benign (in his case) or dangerous (in a lot of the other characters) When a man gives himself up to the government of a ruling passion, --- or, in other words, when his Hobby Horse grows headstrong, --- farewell cool reason and fair discretion! (a borrowing from Jonathan Swift) also, A man and his HOBBY-HORSE, tho' I cannot say that they act and re-act exactly after the same manner in which the soul and body do to each other: Yet doubtless there is a communication between them of some kind, and my opinion rather is, that there is something in it more of the manner of electrified bodies, and that by means of the heated parts of the rider, which come immediately into contact with the back of the HOBBY-HORSE --- by long journies and much friction, it so happens that the body of the rider is at length fill'd as full of HOBBY-HORSICAL matter as it can hold; so that if you are able to give a clear description of the nature of one, you may form a pretty exact notion of the genius and character of the other. In other words, most people are ful of s--t, and their hobbies (power, intolerance, lying, sophism, stamp collecting or whoring) are a good pointer to their true character. But look at the beam in your own eye before you point out the straw in that of your neighbors: De gustibus non est disputandum : Have not the wisest men in all ages - not excepting Solomon himself - have they not had their HOBBY-HORSES; their running horses, their coins and their cockle-shells, their drums and their trumpets, their fiddles, their pallets, their maggots and their butterflies? ... and so long as a man rides his HOBBY-HORSE peaceably and quietly along the King's highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him, --- pray, sir, what have either you or I to do with it? similarly, My hobby-horse, if you recollect a little, is no way a vicious beast; he has scarce one hair or lineament of the ass about him --- 'Tis the sporting little filly-folly which carries you out for the present hour - a maggot, a butterfly, a picture, a fiddle-stick - an uncle Toby's siege - or an any thing, which man makes a shift to get a stride on, to canter it away from the cares and solicitudes of life - 'Tis as useful a beast as it is in the whole creation - nor do I see how the world could do without it --- Words to live by, sadly thrown by the roadside in this modern times we are living right now, when so many people are trying to impose their hobby-horses on everybody else. But let us continue with Tristram's misadventures, this improbable hero doomed right from the start: I have been the continual sport of what the world calls Fortune; and though I will not wrong her by saying, she has ever made me feel the weight of any great or signal evil, yet with all the good temper in the world, I affirm it of her, That in every stage of my life, and at every turn and corner where she could fairly get at me, the ungracious Duchess has pelted me with a set of pitiful misadventures and cross accidents as ever small Hero sustained. [to be continued]

  11. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    This edition from Visual Editions expands upon, or at least emphasises, the typographical fancies Sterne deployed for his maddening nine-book digressive epic. Combining black and red font effects (all the dashes and chapter titles are in red), with unique artistic stunts (the infamous black page is replaced by a strikethrough design, various font frolics are exaggerated in amusing ways, and one page includes a ‘moisture’ effect using semi-laminate bubbles over the text), the book isn’t perhaps a This edition from Visual Editions expands upon, or at least emphasises, the typographical fancies Sterne deployed for his maddening nine-book digressive epic. Combining black and red font effects (all the dashes and chapter titles are in red), with unique artistic stunts (the infamous black page is replaced by a strikethrough design, various font frolics are exaggerated in amusing ways, and one page includes a ‘moisture’ effect using semi-laminate bubbles over the text), the book isn’t perhaps as radical as it appears, but it mainlines some creativity into otherwise bland Penguin or OUP editions. Other effects include Slawkenbergius’s tale printed on a parchment-like gray background (in red font!), a folded page which has to be ‘closed’ to read the text on the other side, and an enhancement of Sterne’s barmy plotline squiggles that attempt to map a coherent path for the book. The edition is lacking in explanatory notes, meaning a new reader interested in keeping up with the Latin, Greek and French asides, or the avalanche of obscure references that come thicker and faster as the book—um, progresses?—digresses, will need to have a Penguin or OUP edition handy. (I read this constantly flipping back to the OUP ed for notes—eventually I gave up). Tristram Shandy, as you will discover, may be a book of digressions and wild goose chases, but it demands Zen-like concentration for both the scholasticism and the difficult 18thC English. I hope to prove a better reader on the second spin. Michael Winterbottom made the film with Steve Coogan.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    May it please your honours, and you, Madam, who certainly inspired the reading if not the reviewing of this book with your own * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *; as I tend not to dabble in the 18th Century. This seminal tale, waxing autobiographical, takes three of the nine volumes at play before our narrator is coaxed out and erroneously christened. My own arrival was unremarkable----if somewhat delayed; My mother, prone to superstition and intuitive causalit May it please your honours, and you, Madam, who certainly inspired the reading if not the reviewing of this book with your own * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *; as I tend not to dabble in the 18th Century. This seminal tale, waxing autobiographical, takes three of the nine volumes at play before our narrator is coaxed out and erroneously christened. My own arrival was unremarkable----if somewhat delayed; My mother, prone to superstition and intuitive causality, -----she would, for instance, blame NASA for every weather event -----indicted a serviceman’s yellow jaundice for the tardiness of my conception. I was, in short, a pleasant surprise; a phrase which would not thereafter be renewed in describing me. The christening was another matter, however. The naming went as intended, unlike the unfortunate Tristram;----I was to be a junior. I asked my father, years later, what the last name meant—a jumble of letters rendered pronounceable by some hurried Ellis Island functionary. I was hoping for DEFENDER OF THE FAITH or LONE WARRIOR IN BATTLE; something snazzy;----BUT, no, he said, it came from the Polish word for horseradish. My grandmother, who came to the U.S. from Poland alone at age 13, would smile at our obligatory annual visit and call me YAN-TUSH, apparently a Polish endearment for JUNIOR, but what is roughly translated as little stem. So, you know, I have that going for me. The godparents were carefully chosen. Uncle Butch, with steel-blue eyes and white knuckles, chewed his cheroots and very much liked his beer and whiskey chaser. My christening would be the first ---- excepting the time he stole an ambulance in England during WWII to go visit his brother, my father, and create an international incident;------ and last time he ventured more than five miles from his abode. Aunt Mary did not, and does not, walk into a room; she makes an entrance, Hollywood style. Aunt Mary did not have Uncle Butch’s problem with the brown liquid, but she was not opposed and was certainly an enabler. It was the second day of the party when they were entrusted with ME;---- in flowing white: for the walk to the church. They feigned sober as they entered, and would have pulled it off had not Father Walter asked where the baby was. They had, it seems, misplaced your narrator. The exact period of my unsupervision is uncertain --- accounts vary ---- and this in no way is an excuse for my subsequent misbehavior nor my naming, which, as I reported, was no accident. HOWEVER; I’ve a tendency to digression, which makes me a suitable reader for one who takes 300 pages to be born. Digressions, incontestably, are the sun-shine:----they are the life, the soul of reading;- - -take them out of this book for instance; - - you might as well take the book along with them;--- But I digress. Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world, ----though the cant of hypocrites may be the worst, ---the cant of criticism is the most tormenting! This is a carnival ride of a book; a journey of head-spinning and wry smiles and knowing winks; teaching us we play at War and work at Love. Sterne is indebted to Cervantes and presages Dickens. So, thank-ee Madam; for * * * * * * * ; the 18th C. That was then and This is now; ----except when they’re the same.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Lentz

    There is so much in this novel one hardly knows where to begin, which is Sterne's hilarious problem for the first 300 pages or so. Tristram Shandy is a comic masterpiece, like Fielding's Tom Jones, which arose barely after the invention of the genre. Even Sterne's name almost seems a play on words and it's easy to see why great minds who followed Sterne like Nietzsche (Note "The Ass Festival" in Zarathustra), Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), James Joyce (Ulysses) and J.P. Donleavy (Darcy Danc There is so much in this novel one hardly knows where to begin, which is Sterne's hilarious problem for the first 300 pages or so. Tristram Shandy is a comic masterpiece, like Fielding's Tom Jones, which arose barely after the invention of the genre. Even Sterne's name almost seems a play on words and it's easy to see why great minds who followed Sterne like Nietzsche (Note "The Ass Festival" in Zarathustra), Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), James Joyce (Ulysses) and J.P. Donleavy (Darcy Dancer, Gentleman, The Singular Man, Balthazar B., The Ginger Man, Saddest Summer of Samuel S.) admired immensely and were influenced by him. One has to love the way that Toby explains to Mrs. Wadman where he was wounded during one of her sieges of his fortress. One has to laugh at Sterne's tearing out of chapters, allowing the reader to pencil in his favorite profanities, making sense of pages of black ink, marbled patterns, blank pages and squiggled lines marking little ups and downs -- as obscure as the raw meaning of life itself. He writes chapters about whiskers, noses, buttons and nothing. I especially enjoyed the dedications to famous persons before several of his volumes. The epigrams were delicious and the careful reader is rewarded on every page for paying close attention to Sterne's often subtle comic style. Sterne certainly opened up the genre with an experimental literary style in which he created a vibrant, raucous, hilarious novel still relevant 300 years after it was penned. I can't say enough about the contribution of this comic gem to the literary works that followed, especially in Ireland. If you're a serious reader with a sense of humor, you'll be amused and enlightened by Sterne's intrepid wit.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mark André

    'It is not things themselves, but opinions concerning things, which disturb men'. (From the title page of Tristram Shandy written in ancient Greek and translated by the author in his Notes. The motto is by Epictetus.)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I wanted to like this, I really did. Sterne is a hugely inventive, hugely capable writer. Maybe he doesn't go in for the batshit linguistic free-for-all that people like James Joyce do, but he is every bit as bizarre and technically innovative. You could recognize one of his wildly digressive, over-mannered sentences in a heartbeat. But I still couldn't stand Tristam Shandy. Not because it's 'bad' per se, (parts of it are extremely engaging and genuinely funny in a way that basically no writing I wanted to like this, I really did. Sterne is a hugely inventive, hugely capable writer. Maybe he doesn't go in for the batshit linguistic free-for-all that people like James Joyce do, but he is every bit as bizarre and technically innovative. You could recognize one of his wildly digressive, over-mannered sentences in a heartbeat. But I still couldn't stand Tristam Shandy. Not because it's 'bad' per se, (parts of it are extremely engaging and genuinely funny in a way that basically no writing from the 18th century is engaging or funny) but because it seemed like the work of a huge talent essentially dicking around for hundreds and hundreds of pages on what felt like, to me, a gimmick. Don't get me wrong, if modern literature has proven anything it's that huge, digressive chunks of text have a totally valid and at times, even stunning place in fiction and non-fiction alike. But a digression, however audacious or clever, is still a movement away from something, and Tristram Shandy doesn't really have anything to move away from, or back to. It's got no center. Maybe I'm not a conceptually ambitious enough reader to appreciate something this free-floating, but this book makes even the most fanatically post-modern fiction seem 'tame' by comparison. Tons of newer novels try to make it painfully clear just how decentralized they are, how utterly discursive and free from the confines of our often admittedly stodgy literary traditions they can be. Sterne wrote something that actually is those things, and while that might be clever on his part, it's just not enough. Not from someone who obviously has the chops to do so much more.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amit Mishra

    Despite its instant popularity and its ordinary sounding title, Tristram Shandy is a novel with no clear beginning, middle and end; its narrative content is distributed across bafflingly idiosyncratic time-scheme interrupted by numerous digressions, authorial comments and interference with the printed fabric of the book. The comically fragmented storyline is a reaction or epistolary artifice in favour of a novelistic shape that depends on the association of ideas, a realistic impression.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a novel that is somehow greatly entertaining and impossibly infuriating at the same time. Tristram, our narrator and author, is quite partial to tangents. Actually, no. A true tangent has to touch the circle at one point. Tristram completely bypasses the circle. This is a novel about a man trying to write a novel. However, he is quite easily distracted. Just when there's a bare semblance of a plot, Tristram goes off on a reel about something The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a novel that is somehow greatly entertaining and impossibly infuriating at the same time. Tristram, our narrator and author, is quite partial to tangents. Actually, no. A true tangent has to touch the circle at one point. Tristram completely bypasses the circle. This is a novel about a man trying to write a novel. However, he is quite easily distracted. Just when there's a bare semblance of a plot, Tristram goes off on a reel about something else. For example: Tristram tries to write about his birth, he goes slightly off-topic, we finally witness his birth around page 150. For some, this novel would be absolute hell. And at points, I was of that mindset. But then Sterne would come through with some of the most ridiculous and hilarious scenes that all is eventually forgiven. There are chapters in here that are some of the funniest I've ever read (Tristram's accidental circumcision for example). And these parts really prop up the entire novel. It is first and foremost a farce and a social satire, or a cock and bull story. If you are thinking of tackling Tristram Shandy then in the words of the Scouts: be prepared. You'll hate this novel and you'll love this novel. In the end they'll balance out. That dichotomy is something of Tristram's HOBBY-HORSE.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Keep On Trying: "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" by Laurence Sterne (Original Review, 2002-06-20) Many very good books are not difficult to read--at least for the people who read them and have read them. But books can become difficult when difference of culture, or viewpoint, or language, or elapsed time intervene. Dickens is more difficult now than 150 years ago, and part of the reward of reading Dickens is the lear If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Keep On Trying: "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" by Laurence Sterne (Original Review, 2002-06-20) Many very good books are not difficult to read--at least for the people who read them and have read them. But books can become difficult when difference of culture, or viewpoint, or language, or elapsed time intervene. Dickens is more difficult now than 150 years ago, and part of the reward of reading Dickens is the learning of how British society has changed. The difficulty of reading Virgil might include learning some Latin; the difficulty of reading Dante might involve at least a parallel text edition.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elena Holmgren

    Wittgenstein once noted that you could profitably write an entire work of philosophy that is comprised entirely of jokes. I wonder if he got the idea from Tristram Shandy (since he said it was one of his favourite books), because this is exactly what Sterne has done here. Because he has chosen humor as his medium, Sterne, like Shakespeare's tragically prophetic and misunderstood jester Yorick (who seems to be chosen by Sterne as his emblem, since he figures not just here but also in his A Sentim Wittgenstein once noted that you could profitably write an entire work of philosophy that is comprised entirely of jokes. I wonder if he got the idea from Tristram Shandy (since he said it was one of his favourite books), because this is exactly what Sterne has done here. Because he has chosen humor as his medium, Sterne, like Shakespeare's tragically prophetic and misunderstood jester Yorick (who seems to be chosen by Sterne as his emblem, since he figures not just here but also in his A Sentimental Journey), makes for an unusual sort of a sage figure. And yet, I think, it is this very peculiar way of revealing insight where we thought there was none to be had (and in a way we thought it unlikely to get it to boot) that makes him interesting as a philosopher-novelist. His narrative shows the roundabout, circuitous ways that insight is to be had in life. Ultimately, what the work explores is what self-knowledge means, and what it takes to make up a coherent story that defines a self out of our fragmentary experience. It stretches the means of narrative description in order to model our day-to-day processes of self-knowledge and meaning-making, while in the end showing that our narratives themselves make the self they aim to discover. The purpose of the novel is to self-reflexively explore the limits of narrative, as a medium, to render the shape of a life. Much of the comedy is epistemic. We see the insane efforts the narrator makes to pinpoint the exact cause of events, like a quirky old man who is frantically fumbling through all his pockets in his search for his keys so that he can let his guests into his house at long last. This leads to the "hero's" long-postponed -birth- (yes, the dude isn't even born til, what, if I recall, chapter 9??), because the narrator can't hit upon just the right characterization of the causal chain that leads to it. This being the case, you're asked to not look for a narrative thread here, but rather to look behind the thread, at the making of the thread out of the fragments of a life, frantically pulled together by a comically earnest old man who is desperate to entertain you with a story (but, I imagine, also mischievously and sadistically withholding it, in the case of Sterne himself, who is behind the scenes). If you're insistent on looking for a story here, this work will be a gruesome test of endurance for you. And that is precisely where the humor of it lies, in the discharge of laughter that comes every time you realize that the narrator's impish, comical, philosophical fastidiousness about identifying the exact causes of life events is the cause of the grueling, indefinite postponement of the satisfaction of our epistemic hunger for narrative consummation that we all expect. We all hunger for a tidy tying up of loose ends. Can he get born already?? We're ready to throw causality out the window, if he could just get on with it and come into life. Please, enough already about how a chance conversation with the uncle about military fortification methods might have had something to do with the events leading up to the insemination! And yet, we masochistically love the treatment we're being dished out, somehow. And that also forms part of the humor of the situation. I think that all narrative structures are built on top of an implicit ontology. Sterne's is no exception, and yet looking at this mess of detail, you'd think I am hallucinating a pattern where there is none. In A Sentimental Journey, the narrator usefully formulates his one overriding principle: "All is intermix'd." It is an anti-principle, because it is pro-life above all. Indeed, "all is intermix'd" in life, and that is why it is also intermix'd in his art, which tries to stretch the limits of representation and description in order to reflect life as much as possible. Sterne is an early precursor to the stream of consciousness method of narrative, which seeks to render experience in all its messy richness. Yet the dashes and the fragmentary, collage-like method of building up a description which often culminates in an anticlimactic lack of completion - and collapses upon itself like a house of cards built on the sand - suggests that narrative is, by its nature, a futile endeavour to make a complete, meaningful whole out of an inherently broken, scattered existence. The self-reflexivity fractures the narrative prism into myriads of fragmentary shards. If we'd have precision, we lose the rounded completeness we seek, and vice versa. We can never capture the richness of experience in our narrative, symbolic nets. We can only skirt the periphery of that unruly richness. I love the way he exhibits, narratively, what is involved in the -effort- at making an honest description of an event in life. The narrative re-enacts the processes by which, on a day-to-day and moment-to-moment basis, we put together whatever meaning is to be had out of our experience. The narrative's self-reflexive efforts at examining the process of description model the epistemic processes by which we make up a lifeworld, a bubble of meaning in which we, ultimately, are sealed for the duration of our lives. If we look at how we, ourselves, in our everyday efforts to form a unity out of the scattered messiness of our lives, we will find, with a smile of recognition, much of that same process of knowing our lives reflected in Sterne's narrative method here. The messiness of tangled and obscure causalities, the irreducible particularity of events, the -surplus- of meanings that is just not collapsible into a tidy framework, is the threefold truth that Sterne insists on. Describing an event in life turns out to be like trying to scoop up water with a sieve. Part of the humor comes from here, also, from this inevitably doomed effort to fix life into a description just as it is endlessly slipping away through the cracks. Sterne is a modern day Aristophanes making fun of Socrates' way of being rather ridiculous way of being "out of touch" with life. The humor comes, ultimately, from the narrator's insistence on philosophic precision and self-reflexivity in the face of life's irreducible messiness. It comes from the ironic discrepancy between the philosophic attitude and lived life. It is as if the narrator plays along with the philosophic demand for clarity and precision, only to reveal its absurdity. Despite that, there is no nihilist conclusion here, as one might expect from a work that denies all order as a kind of forgery. Rather, it is as if the narrator were trying to catch a rambunctious child at play (who is also sometimes rather destructive in its carefree abandon) and get it to sit pretty in a corner so that he could get its portrait right. Life doesn't stop that way. We understand this because the work -shows- this truth. The ultimate point in all this, I think, (and yes, I insist, there is a philosophical point just as there is a narrative one) is to show at what a far remove from life all our projects of systematization, or of providing a totalizing description, really are. In a sense, when we yearn for narrative completeness, that drive takes over and creates an independent universe of pure fiction in which we almost exclusively come to dwell. Ultimately, the irony of the book is that it is less about the "Life" of Tristram Shandy than it is about his - and influential others' - "Opinions." We live in a chain, in a meshwork of opinions and fictions. Life just IS a process of story-making; the story we make up cements us in place for life. We live in our personal bubble of meaning, and, as such, real conversation is impossible (as the novel amply displays, with the numerous hilarious fly-by "conversations"). What we leave behind is simply our pet construct, which then shapes - and circumscribes - the life of those who come after. Each with his own hobby horse, as Sterne would put it, and your hobby-horse is your destiny. The philosopher is no different, and lacks any privileged perspective over all other hobby horses (though we philosophers like to think of philosophy as some meta-hobby-horse). One of my favourite quotes from the book well describes the author's attitude to all efforts to systematize life via formal knowledge projects: “our knowledge physical, metaphysical, physiological, polemical, nautical, mathematical, ænigmatical, technical, biographical, romantical, chemical, and obstetrical, with fifty other branches of it, (most of ’em ending, as these do, in ical) have, for these two last centuries and more, gradually been creeping upwards towards that Acme of their perfections, from which, if we may form a conjecture from the advances of these last seven years, we cannot possibly be far off. When that happens, it is to be hoped, it will put an end to all kind of writings whatsoever;—the want of all kind of writing will put an end to all kind of reading;—and that in time, As war begets poverty, poverty peace,——must, in course, put an end to all kind of knowledge,—and then——we shall have all to begin over again; or, in other words, be exactly where we started.” I have, for a long time, been fascinated by the way in which the novel can serve as an epistemic instrument. Even before reading Nietzsche, as a budding philosopher who is also an avid consumer of art and reader of literature, I have realized that most philosophy impoverishes itself by ignoring the crucial way in which the medium through which we give form to our wisdom becomes a crucial part of that wisdom. The relationship between the medium and style of a philosophy to its content is much like the relationship between body and mind, in general. After all, what is Nietzsche without that shadowy lushness of style, or Kant without that crystalline lucidity? Hume without irony, or Plato without the dialogue form? I am of the rather anathema conviction that the resources of philosophizing would expand considerably if it were to cease its phony, age-old war against the arts (declared in Plato's Republic), and instead learn to draw on the rich characterizations of human experience that the arts alone can provide. After all, the epistemic instrument that the arts can provide - and that philosophy notoriously lacks - is the -description- it provides of the irreducible particularity, specificity and richness of lived life. If philosophy is to more fully draw on all our capacity for experience and insight, it must learn from the much more richly specified descriptive process that narrative possesses, and which helps it more directly map onto experience. This conviction tends to make me an outsider among -both- philosophers and artists, each of whom believes, in their own way, that "never the twain shall meet." But it does make me appreciate Tristram Shandy as the work of a kindred spirit who shares my conviction.

  20. 4 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy' is a fictional memoir of sorts, but the novel is written in a manner to subvert the formal conventions of the novel (a proto-post-modern genre), and along the way, assert the role of the author as a Maximus Prime Writer, or in other words, someone in complete control of your television set. It is all in good fun, a wonderful satire that aims for lowbrow comedy by using every single aspect of the highbrow educated culture of 1760. To mention some example 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy' is a fictional memoir of sorts, but the novel is written in a manner to subvert the formal conventions of the novel (a proto-post-modern genre), and along the way, assert the role of the author as a Maximus Prime Writer, or in other words, someone in complete control of your television set. It is all in good fun, a wonderful satire that aims for lowbrow comedy by using every single aspect of the highbrow educated culture of 1760. To mention some examples of the author's games with the reader, the Dedication is placed after several chapters of the book, chapters are skipped or missing, the narration of the action is interrupted by sudden 'ejaculations' of listening characters or the author who are reminded of another story, which may or may not be finished in the telling, while the original plot thread may be mislaid for awhile. If you are looking for any forward motion in the plot, forget it. Sterne fills his novel cover to cover with literary/philosophical/Christian/ancient Greek/ French intellectual essay and Art references that are twisted into puns, jokes, wordplay and wayward opinions and speeches, but especially digressions. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of digressions. Not only does the conversation and remembrances during the night of Tristram's birth take up 40% of the book before he is born and named, but one of the nine 'books' (sections) is a lively inserted travelogue of the author's trip to Paris. There is mention early in the book of an amusing mysterious injury that a central character suffered and that Tristram promises to explain, which he eventually does in a chaotic collage of revisited scenes involving an anxious romance. This mystery is possibly the one reason that some readers finish the book in spite of its archaic language and frustrating construction. The excessive ornamentation of the writing, which delights even as it clearly is a satire on ornamentation of writing in general, functions to bring a million subtle and crude representations of the male ***** to the fore in painfully hilarious tales and bawdy torments into funny literary tropes (such as sex-comedy scenes, romantic fails, marital interplays, social proposals which at first appear quite respectable). That said, Sterne also seems to conclude sometimes a banana is just a banana, and we readers are too quick to judge. Sterne entertains as he experiments with font changes, colored wordless pages, and curly lines which refuse to be straightforward. He also makes sure to protect the reader from profane parts with plenty of **********. This all makes for a curious read, already slow because of untranslated foreign language quotations and unorthodox grammar, ---punctuation--- and sophisticated OED language of 1760. I strongly recommend picking up a copy, such as the Modern Library printing, which has plenty of notes and glossaries. Also, I found this link to be profoundly helpful: http://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature.... However, if you find the book very enjoyable despite nearly drowning in 18th century words, as well as its lack of conventional construction, as I did, I would read the book’s sections first before using the link to clear up the occasional confusions of meaning. The wit will be lost if you flip to offside explanations too much. I'm not even going to try to summarize most of what the book’s plot is, other than to say it takes time and effort to read. There is no question reading it will be a slow job, despite short chapters. However, I found the novel immensely entertaining and worth the effort. It is the silly intelligent wit which is the main interest. The book also shows that family life and people are not much different in love, marriage or interests despite the difference of centuries between the time the book was written and our time. So, this is my severely abbreviated partial summary: Two of the sweetest ex-soldiers I've ever had the pleasure to meet - Corporal Trim, a companion, and Captain Uncle Toby Shandy, who are inseparable since they both retired from military service after injuries, and Toby's brother, the soon-to-be father Walter Shandy, are awaiting the birth of Tristram, Walter's son. Any conversations in which they participate tend to soon revolve around their war experiences, which are basically a thousand ways to describe the building of walls and trenches. A male midwife has joined them, Dr. Slop, who joins in the conversation while they sit in the parlor. Mrs. Shandy, Elizabeth, has refused to use Slop and is with her own choice of midwife, a woman, upstairs, in labor. Walter, meanwhile holds forth on many many many things, mostly involving opinions and ideas, such as hobby-horses, names, economics and women. Tristram, in telling of this night, also drifts to future events as well as the past, particularly stories about the local parson, Yorick. Alas, poor Yorick.... Like father, like son. .

  21. 4 out of 5

    ba

    To be honest, I never heard of this book before the film came out last year. My wife heard an NPR report on the film, and they used the terms Post-Modern and Unfilmable so many times that she knew I would be interested. We saw the film and liked it. I finally picked upthe book and read it, expecting a challenging work that would yield some intellectual dividends if I could just plow through it somehow. In actuality, the book was a very fun read. It did indeed have the foreshadowings of postmoder To be honest, I never heard of this book before the film came out last year. My wife heard an NPR report on the film, and they used the terms Post-Modern and Unfilmable so many times that she knew I would be interested. We saw the film and liked it. I finally picked upthe book and read it, expecting a challenging work that would yield some intellectual dividends if I could just plow through it somehow. In actuality, the book was a very fun read. It did indeed have the foreshadowings of postmodern flair. Of course where one would today find cinematic references, there were instead references to Voltaire, Cervantes and Shakespeare. Really, much of the book plays with the (then new) form of the novel, and questions what is writable and what isn't. The narrative, such as it is, unfolds as a narrator tangents around an autobiography, augmented by an "editor" in the form of footnotes, and sometimes inserted right into the text. The narrator addresses the reader directly, often anticipating the reader's objections and arguing his point. The footnoting at points is pre-reminiscent(?) of the hilarity of David Foster Wallace at times, and the tension between "narrator" and "editor" reminds me of Nabokov's unreliable narrators. The confused dialog evokes both Don DeLillo and Philip K. Dick. Whimsical typography and comically abbreviated chapters recall (precall?) Vonnegut. In conclusion, for obvious reasons, I'm going to try to make it through this entire review without mentioning an author that rhymes with Schmynchon.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Rudder

    I am shocked at the drastic change of my opinion on The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. After I read it a mere three years ago, I swore I would take my MA Exam without rereading it to avoid undergoing such torture a second time. I gave it one star on goodreads. Having forgotten everything about the novel (aside from my distaste for it), I had to reread it for the exam. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wrote "ha!" in the margins more than I have in any other book. I laughed I am shocked at the drastic change of my opinion on The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. After I read it a mere three years ago, I swore I would take my MA Exam without rereading it to avoid undergoing such torture a second time. I gave it one star on goodreads. Having forgotten everything about the novel (aside from my distaste for it), I had to reread it for the exam. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wrote "ha!" in the margins more than I have in any other book. I laughed out loud. I read sections to people around me because I thought they were amusing. I put the book down hesitantly when I had to take a break from it. Very strange. I think my main problem with reading Tristram Shandy the first time was that I was looking for the linear plot that reached its climax in the third act and then gracefully fell to its denouement. Sterne wants to shake up the expected system—something rather ahead of its time in the 1760s. On my first reading, I rebelled against his diversionary tactics and tangents and dangerously thrust my nose into the book searching for the next big plot development. And that is not how you should read Tristram Shandy. If you're willing to sit back and let Sterne guide you through his “Cock and Bull” story of large attractive noses that (he swears!) are just noses, hobby-horses, hot chestnuts down the pants, do-it-yourself chapters, excommunication forms, unconventional circumcisions, a conscious narrator and constructed audience, swearing nuns, and marble pages, you are sure to have a blast. Just don’t fight it. Quotes! “Every time a man smiles,--but must more so, when he laughs… it adds something to this Fragment of Life.” “Therefore, my dear friend and companion, if you should think me somewhat sparing of my narrative on my first setting out,--bear with me,--ant let me go on, and tell my story my own way:--or if I should seem now and then to trifle upon the road,--or should sometimes put on a fool’s cap with a bell to it, for a moment or two as we pass along,--don’t fly off,--but rather courteously give me credit for a little more wisdom than appears upon my outside;==and as we jog on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short, do any thing,--only keep your temper.” “Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;--they are the life, the soul of reading:--take them out of this book for instance,--you might as well take the book along with them.” “Endless is the Search of Truth!” “Writing, when properly managed, (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation.” “Every thin in this world… is bit with jest,--and has with in it, and instruction too,--if we can but find it out.” “Sciences may be learned by rote, but Wisdom not.” “There are a thousand unnoticed openings… which let a penetrating eye at once into a man’s soul… a man of sense does not lay down his hat in coming into a room,--or take it up in going out of it, but something escapes, which discovers him.” “’Tis an undercraft of authors to keep up a good understanding amongst words, as politicians do amongst men—not knowing how near they may be under a necessity of placing them to each other.” “Love, you see, is not so much a Sentiment as a Situation, into which a man enters.”

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maddie

    I can't believe I actually finished this.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Morton

    This book is amazing. I’m just going to stick that up here at the top, before I go off on a tangent, so it shows up for any of you browsing reviews attached to this book. Books like this cause me a great deal of anxiety. I know that’s weird, so let me explain. I’ve been aware of Tristam Shandy for the majority of my reading life, though it was only in college (a decade or so ago) that I became a bit more aware of the general gist of the work, which at least placed it somewhere on my “to read” lis This book is amazing. I’m just going to stick that up here at the top, before I go off on a tangent, so it shows up for any of you browsing reviews attached to this book. Books like this cause me a great deal of anxiety. I know that’s weird, so let me explain. I’ve been aware of Tristam Shandy for the majority of my reading life, though it was only in college (a decade or so ago) that I became a bit more aware of the general gist of the work, which at least placed it somewhere on my “to read” list, though it was pretty low on the list due to a general ambivalence I have towards 18th century literature. In the last few years I’ve read enough praise for this work from various quarters that I finally decided to give it a spin (and, as I’m planning on starting Leg Over Leg: 4-Volume Set in the next few weeks, which was described in some review I read as the Arabic Tristam Shandy, and I figured I should probably read the original). And holy shit it’s good. And, see, that’s where the anxiety comes in: what other books do I have a lifelong awareness of, a small aversion to, that are also incredible and I’m missing? It’s worrisome. This book is, with no real exaggeration, one of the funniest I’ve read. I laughed out loud frequently – not just at the cunning wordplay frequently on display, but even more than that, at the structure itself. The character of Tristam Shandy (as narrator, obviously) is one of the greatest literary creations I’ve encountered yet. This book feels centuries ahead of its time, and at times still feels forward thinking reading it today. The rabbit hole of digressions that this book takes in the first three volumes is both overwhelming and exhilarating. That’s not to say it doesn’t also feel archaic – it’s odd to me (and telling, I suppose, of the quality of many modern texts) that reading a book with a high level of erudition, classical education, and depth and breadth of knowledge automatically makes it feel aged, but there it is. Sterne’s writing is incredibly learned and nuanced, displaying a depth of both learning and wit, typically in equal measure. Also: good lord is this book dirty. Good for it. In fact, if you run into a section that has multiple annotations, odds are good Sterne is making a sex joke, and typically it’s a pretty funny one. I will say that I felt that the book does not maintain the same level of intensity, humor, or just plain batshit insanity in the second half as is present in the first half. And even then, the book as a whole is incredible, and worth the time and effort (it can be quite difficult to keep up with Sterne’s/Shandy’s narrative flow at times) to read this book. It is truly deserving of the incredibly high regard in which it is held.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last. —Samuel Johnson I wonder if Laurence Sterne, duty bound as he was, him being the author, or at the least the transcriber of this tale—as sometimes stories seem to come from some higher power, and we merely jot them down—I wonder, I say, if he had duly considered what he was about when he birthed this work from his brain;—whether he well understood how much depended on the doing, as there is after all no telling how many people will come to re Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last. —Samuel Johnson I wonder if Laurence Sterne, duty bound as he was, him being the author, or at the least the transcriber of this tale—as sometimes stories seem to come from some higher power, and we merely jot them down—I wonder, I say, if he had duly considered what he was about when he birthed this work from his brain;—whether he well understood how much depended on the doing, as there is after all no telling how many people will come to read whatever you set out to write (though of course you might make a reasonable guess);—therefore it seems irresponsible of an author, not to mention a bit immoral, or at least indecent, not to polish and edit and redact every sentence in order to conform with good taste and strong morals;—as, I repeat, you never know who will come to read it, how long it will survive, or how much of an influence you might have—therefore it is imperative, I say, absolutely imperative, to sculpt and craft the work, to ensure that no ill effect will come about, no harm will be done to posterity, and that you will lead all the world, for generations on down, with your strong example of tact, decency, and restraint—if it should so happen, as no doubt is an unlikely possibility, that your work will continue to be read after you depart from this blue-green planet.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    To describe this late 18th century novel as being characterized by constant digressions, as is often done (and even by Sterne himself), is probably inaccurate, since to digress implies that one has an ultimate goal in mind from which one is recurrently sidetracked. Sterne’s narrative has no particular goal from which to digress, his interest being more in following his mind and its associations wherever they may lead him. In that sense, his mind is like the minds of all of us, and we are invited To describe this late 18th century novel as being characterized by constant digressions, as is often done (and even by Sterne himself), is probably inaccurate, since to digress implies that one has an ultimate goal in mind from which one is recurrently sidetracked. Sterne’s narrative has no particular goal from which to digress, his interest being more in following his mind and its associations wherever they may lead him. In that sense, his mind is like the minds of all of us, and we are invited to watch its entertaining perambulations. To be impatient with the wandering nature of the narrative is to miss the point, it being better and truer to Sterne’s intent to simply enjoy the scenery that one encounters. Or, from another perspective, his intent is what he has in fact produced, his so-called “digressions” being of its essence. The novel contains characters that become indelible – Tristram himself, his father and his uncle Toby, Toby’s faithful servant Trim, the Widow Wadman, the list could go on and on. Each is, over the course of the novel, developed wonderfully, becoming a well-rounded and unforgettable figure. Sterne’s pattern of narration is to break off suddenly, often in mid-sentence, and then head in a new direction, returning on later occasions. Thus, it is as if he uses leitmotifs that appear and reappear – Tristram’s birth, his name, Toby’s wound, various characters’ “hobby-horses,” and many more. Reading the work in e-book format is a bit of a challenge, since it is harder to jump around and refer back to material that may relate to a freshly addressed topic. The syntax is most complex, and I frequently found myself rereading sentences and almost diagramming them in my mind in order to sort them out. And the writing is very droll, filled with mixed meanings and double entendres. Reading this novel is a delightful romp. “Writing, when properly managed (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation. As no one, who knows what he is about in good company, would venture to talk all;--so no author, who understands the just boundaries of decorum and good-breeding, would presume to think all: The truest respect which you can pay to the reader's understanding, is to halve this matter amicably, and leave him something to imagine, in his turn, as well as yourself.” “It is the nature of an hypothesis, when once a man has conceived it, that it assimilates every thing to itself, as a nourishment; and, from the first moment of your begetting it, it generally grows the stronger by every thing you see, hear, read, or understand.” The book demonstrates the vast difference between the kind of more frequent literary narrative that advances, if not with total linearity, at least with coherence and discernable pattern, and that which proceeds with the natural movements of our minds, jumping almost continuously from topic to topic, more capricious than focused and intentional. Perhaps we are faced here with the difference between the logical mind and the associative mind, between the mind when it is attentively following a rational argument and the mind that is allowed free reign to wander where it will, meandering along without apparent direction. Probably both are needed in the creation of a work of art, and Sterne’s narrator’s lack of apparent discipline belies the intentional and highly crafted novel that he has written. Herein the reader is kept continually off balance and can respond to the writing with frustration or delighted surprise. Does this novel have affinities to the essays of Montaigne, with the author wandering where he will, following his musings as they lead him? The genres are distinctly different, to be sure, but the enjoyment that both authors offer to the reader is in some ways similar. And, despite their perambulating appearances, both are equally carefully and skillfully crafted, exemplars of their types. Sterne’s narrative has also been compared with the of Rabelais (from whose work Sterne sometimes quotes), and it is true that they are equally imaginative and entertaining. But the latter is more fantastical and magical, the former more pedantically rational. The latter is more sequential, improbable episode following improbable episode, the former more intertwined, multiple themes interweaving into a tapestry whose total shape and content is revealed only gradually. The latter is consistent with the period developing into the French Baroque with all its extravagance, the former a product of the intellectual temperament of the Scottish Enlightenment, modified by the author’s considerable tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. The contrast between the two is interesting to consider. Sterne’s narrative is ever conversational and in the first person, the author, in the character of Tristram, often turning to the reader in short interpolated dialogues about where the narrative is tending, and why. Sterne offers frequent explanations, apologies, and justifications, and he includes hypothetical responses from imagined readers, male and female. But two more observations and I shall bring these remarks to a close. First, this novel contains passages in Latin and in French, some brief and some lengthy. Some are translated and some are not (at least in the edition I read), and some are intentionally mistranslated most humorously. If the reader has facility in these languages, his entertainment will be increased. If not, no matter. Second, this work is probably the earliest example of stream-of-consciousness narrative of which I am aware, presaging the modern works of Woolf and Joyce by nearly a century and a half. I found it interesting to read a work that began this trend, so important to contemporary literature. Sterne’s novel is a masterpiece, a creatively and skillfully written work that is a delightful tour de force, an amazing narrative that is quite unique, like none other. I would enjoy reading it again someday.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    "Read, read, read, read, my unlearned reader! Read...for without much reading, by which, your reverence knows, I mean much knowledge, you will no more be able to penetrate the meaning of my next marbled page (motly emblem of my work!) than the world with all its sagacity has been able to unravel the many opinions, transactions and truths which still lie mystically hid under the dark veil of the black one." (III.35) There's the most-quoted bit from Tristram Shandy, which is full of references to o "Read, read, read, read, my unlearned reader! Read...for without much reading, by which, your reverence knows, I mean much knowledge, you will no more be able to penetrate the meaning of my next marbled page (motly emblem of my work!) than the world with all its sagacity has been able to unravel the many opinions, transactions and truths which still lie mystically hid under the dark veil of the black one." (III.35) There's the most-quoted bit from Tristram Shandy, which is full of references to obscure works, works made up, works misquoted, and works wholly plagiarized. Well, okay, Shandy is an experiment. Titularly the story of its narrator, it turns out to be something entirely different: a story about his uncle, his father, the passage of time, the difficulty of telling a story...noses...it's anything other than Tristram Shandy's story. It's been described as a perfect capture of the way the mind works: twisting back on itself, skipping, tangentializing. And yeah, that's how my mind works, too, and as far as that documentation goes, it's bravura. But isn't the point of writing a novel to concentrate your mind, to focus all those disparate thoughts into a coherent whole? If I wrote down my mind right now, I would tell you about this book, Eric B & Rakim on my CD player, my dog snoring, my wife asleep, my left calf aching slightly, the wine in my mouth, I suspect this review doesn't make much sense, and not in an awesome post-modern way, my fingers are a little cold, I'm still puzzling about a dream I had last night in which I told my wife that while she was gone on a business trip I'd shovel out the eight inches of sand I'd covered the floor of our library with, which she's been surprisingly obliging about but I was starting to get the impression that enough is enough... That's not a very good narrative, and even the most forgiving of Tristram Shandy's critics have admitted that it's not a page-turner. The word is self-indulgent. Shandy belongs to the Quixotic tradition - not as in the word, but as in the talking about the Cervantick [sic] influence - and I love that genre. It's writing about writing, and I was hoping to love this book, and I was excited about lots of parts of Shandy. For example: the page following the quote that opens this review is marbled; it was different, then, in every edition of this book as it was originally published. That's weird, and not lamely weird. There's also a part where Sterne threatens to describe the widow Wadman and then just leaves the next page blank, so you can draw her yourself, "as like your mistress as you like - as unlike your wife as your conscience will let you." (VI.38) And he leaves IV.24 out because, he says, he realized after writing it that it was so good it would throw the balance of the rest of the book off; it would make everything else seem worse by comparison. Again, that's a funny joke. But I found myself a little disappointed by IV.25, because unlike 24, it existed. And when one finds oneself wishing that all of the chapters of a book had been excluded, one has to admit that one may not be enjoying reading it. Tristram Shandy is a clever book. It might even be a worthwhile book, if you're really interested in books. But it's a bitch to read. Edition review I originally read the Oxford edition, which is excellent, but I'm now the proud owner of this artsy Visual Edition, wooo! It's one of the very nicest books on my shelves. Here are some pics: The famous marbled page, "motly emblem of my work" - a very strange interpretation The famous black page, which follows the sentence "Alas, poor Yorick!" and is always blacked out one way or another I don't even know what's going on here but it's very cool - those are sortof like wax drips, only visible when you angle the page to catch the light. I did my best. It's a very pretty edition but it does not have any notes, so it's probably not a good choice for your first exposure to Tristra Shandy. Go with the Oxford instead.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    A post modern book written before modernism was even a twinkle in the Widow's eye. I'm tempted to say the entire book is a digression, truer prehaps to say that it is an exercise in the art of digression for comic effect. Tristram Shandy attempts to tell the story of his life and opinions but almost everything from buttons to noses requires further explanation and chapters of their own, so the book progresses like one of those 18th century sieges that Corporal Trim and Tristram's uncle are so bu A post modern book written before modernism was even a twinkle in the Widow's eye. I'm tempted to say the entire book is a digression, truer prehaps to say that it is an exercise in the art of digression for comic effect. Tristram Shandy attempts to tell the story of his life and opinions but almost everything from buttons to noses requires further explanation and chapters of their own, so the book progresses like one of those 18th century sieges that Corporal Trim and Tristram's uncle are so busy recreating at Shandy Hall and hence by the end of the book he has barely got past his own birth and christening. Lots of great set pieces. Highly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I’ve got but 20,000 characters with which to express my thoughts on Laurence Sterne’s digressive-heavy masterpiece The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, so I must make sure to add no digressions of my own on the subjects of buttonholes, pishes, knots or anything else. Though a digression on digressions might be warranted it too must be avoided. While a space consisting of 20,000 characters may seem ample for reviewing a work, its shortcomings surely become quite evident when one c I’ve got but 20,000 characters with which to express my thoughts on Laurence Sterne’s digressive-heavy masterpiece The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, so I must make sure to add no digressions of my own on the subjects of buttonholes, pishes, knots or anything else. Though a digression on digressions might be warranted it too must be avoided. While a space consisting of 20,000 characters may seem ample for reviewing a work, its shortcomings surely become quite evident when one checks and finds that they’re already running out of space, and considerably so (nearly 500 characters so) by the end of the first paragraph! So we must proceed on a straight and narrow course, recognizing that we have no room here for either digression or amplification. Focus is the thing that is needed in a review such as this, and so all of my faculties from now until I type my last word of this review will be dedicated to discussing the merits and weaknesses of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and all other points that are necessary to this undertaking. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a work of comic and experimental genius, wherein Laurence Sterne, clergyman and writer, experiments with the novel, which was still a very fresh narrative form, shewing the reader the possibilities of prose while all the while highlighting its limitations. What exactly the merits of this particular novel are is a matter of interpretation – as is always the case. Dr. Boswell’s opinion of it was not very high (“Nothing odd will do long”). Goldsmith, another Sterne contemporary said that the work “had no other merit upon earth than nine hundred and ninety-five breaks, seventy-two ha ha’s, three good things, and a garter.” My own counts differed greatly from Goldsmith's. So either he or I had surely a different interpretation of these key terms, or else one or the other had imbibed too much wine or found ourselves in poor spirits when we undertook our counting expeditions. No matter, though, I am starting to digress and I had promised a straightforward review, so much as possible. Though Sterne had many imitators and admirers in his day (being perhaps the most imitated writer of the latter half of the eighteenth century) he also had his fair share of critics – or “asses” if you will (a designation Mr. Sterne, and Mr. Shandy – the younger – certainly favor) and had to defend himself against many allegations of plagiarism, which though surely true to an extent were no less true than they were for his many great contemporaries in the literary world. A century later, though Sterne had long since departed from this world -- and I haven’t the liberty to respect him with a black page here, so I merely erect this simple, though admittedly all too small, monument in his honor: -- Walter Bagehot criticized Sterne’s nine volume novel as “a book without plan or order” characterized (and in no good way) by a “fantastic disorder of form.” By the 20th century his reputation among critics improved greatly and his influence has been immense in modernist and postmodernist fiction, as the work was a major source of inspiration for writers like James Joyce and one could say that in contemporary fiction Thomas Pynchon, too, is a literary disciple of Sterne. I guess Sterne’s odd thing is a bit longer than Dr. Boswell gave it credit for. Why it’s stretched across four centuries now and has touched many a man, for better or worse! Dr. Boswell’s influence on this century has surely been felt by far fewer. But enough about Mr. Sterne’s influence for I’m jumping ahead. Let’s go back to his influencers, for to put him before them is like spreading out the jam before one has even baked the bread. Among Sterne’s greatest influences are undoubtedly men like William Shakespeare (referenced often in this work, with Yorick from Hamlet even lending his name to one of Sterne’s characters – and not just one of Sterne’s characters but the one that was his literary alter ego), Swift (and his digressive Tale of a Tub), Cervantes’ Don Quixote, John Locke, Burton, Rousseau and so many others whose names are escaping me at the moment. It is sometimes no easy matter to pinpoint exactly what causes us to forget such details. I believe that Tristram Shandy says somewhere in the course of his story that it has to do with the mind being like a sieve. Or was that one of Walter Shandy’s many opinions? And if it is one of the father’s opinions, does it not also belong to the son? No matter. I digress. And with so little room to flap my arms about or turn from side to side I must progress straight forward. I must make every effort to get to the meat and potatoes of my review and to my discussion primarily of Uncle Toby’s amours – “the choicest morsel” of young Mr. Shandy’s entire narrative – for I have burnt through more than 3,900 characters already – and counting! – and have surely now fewer than 16,000 characters’ space with which I may proceed. Not much room to wiggle here. Surely this leaves me no liberty for any blank spaces or apostrophes (well, maybe one or two just to get them out of the way: **) and certainly little room for any digressions like this: No. Indeed I must proceed with this review as follows (at least as closely as possible): Straight and narrow, for the shortest (and neatest) way of getting from Point A to Point B is to travel upon a straight line. I will take this path not because it’s the best course – for as Tristram Shandy says, we should “let people tell their stories their own way” – but simply because with only a mere 15,000 odd characters left to review this work, I have but little room for anything but a straight and simple review. No blank pages with which one can scribble how the Widow Wadman appears in their imagination (so unlike their wives as possible and so much like their mistresses as possible, providing of course one has a mistress). No black pages to mourn the death of poor Yorick (though I’ve used the smallest of black marks to mourn the death of Mr. Sterne). Nor is there room here for any marble pages. No images at that. And certainly no lengthy passages in Latin, nor even a few words of Greek (well, maybe just once to get it out of my system before proceeding, for it is a terrible thing to have an itch that one cannot scratch: “Ταρασσει τοὐϚ Ἀνϑρώπους οὐ τὰ Πράγματα, αλλα τὰ περι τῶν Πραγμάτων, Δογματα”; I do hope that it is copied correctly, but if not then my sloppiness here is hopefully more easily forgiven than my bungling of this review). Minimal digressions, if any, I must make. Eliminate the white spaces; no amplification if it can be helped; no hobby-horses shall I ride on – no erudition shall I add like old Walter Shandy, nor any word on fortifications like Uncle Toby. From this point forward I shall just focus in solely on Tristram Shandy and his opinions; or rather Mr. Shandy’s life and opinions as they unfold through the literary powers of Mr. Sterne. For with fewer than 14,000 some characters remaining (and that is if my tally here in Word matches with that in Goodreads, for heaven knows if it doesn’t I am in deeper trouble than I thought), I must make sure that I do Sterne’s brilliant work justice in this review. And I shall not make any mention of Noses whatsoever, except where absolutely necessary. And believe me that if I do make mention of Noses I mean by the term "Nose" nothing but that feature on the front and center of the face. The same goes to any references to cabbages, Argumentum Tripodiums and any other such things that may be thought to appeal to the bawdy, though I do not foresee any such discussions necessary in this review. Now the question is, where shall I proceed with this review from here. It’s no easy task to decide. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, after all, begins long before the birth of Tristram in Volume III (I decided, it may be noted, to omit the “Gentleman” in order to conserve space, and now I find that adding this parenthetical has completely foiled my efforts at conservation; no matter, for I’ll just renege on my promise to minimize apostrophes and strike the next two sentences and proceed from there). **************************************************************. ***********************************************************************************. There. Now we are back on track and with plenty of made up space, but it is necessary I feel to explain that in the two sentences struck out to force this review to fit within the confines which I am here allotted, it should be noted that these sentences raise the question of when the life of man begins. Is it at the moment of birth or is it at the moment of conception? And why do some authors insist on giving birth to characters at some middle juncture of their lives? It isn’t natural. Yet it’s sometimes done. I should have been more careful in the begetting of this review, for I feel that I thrust it into the world without any care whatsoever. And what a mess I’ve made already. I should strike it all entirely – for I feel it has been written more for my amusement than for any other purpose, and I ask if it is fair to bring a review into this world for such a selfish purpose as this – but I won’t do so, for that might be even more reckless. But I do recommend – and this recommendation is not made hastily, for my attempts to write a review in the style of Sterne (or rather in the style of Sterne’s worst imitators) is a messy and ugly beast that no person could possibly love, especially if I (its creator) have already so little affection for it – that if anyone has wasted their time reading this review thus far that they cease doing so immediately. But I must continue on with my writing of it because once introduced into the world it isn’t fair to leave such a helpless creature as this to its own devices. It’s as if in writing it I have carelessly left it to Dr. Slop to deliver with his hazardous forceps (already knowing the damage this vile instrument has caused to poor Uncle Toby’s knuckles when their use was being demonstrated) – which have crushed the bridge between sense and purpose, just as they crushed the nose of poor Tristram – or that I have left with the noodle-brained Susannah the message to communicate the name with which to christen it. But really there’s no blame to be laid here against anyone else for any of the misfortunes of this piece. The culpability here is solely my own and I will take up my responsibility and try to make up for the sins – many though they are – that I have committed thus far. Perhaps with the help of a little invocation (better late than never) I can repair this review – which could very well be called “Tristram” itself, and with more truth to the matter, for it certainly is to me a "sorrowful birth" indeed. Yes, I feel an invocation better serves my purpose than would a Tristopedia – which would prove equally as fruitless as Walter Shandy’s efforts to direct his son in the formative years of his life – for an invocation will call the sweet powers of the universe to my aid, whereas a guidebook to life will not serve any purpose for a review (and a weak and aimless one such as this, no less). But since my own power to drum up an invocation of my own is failing me now, let me lean on Mr. Sterne’s – or rather Tristram’s – words for support in starting, for I’m already almost too weary to continue: Invocation Gentle Spirit of sweetest humour, who not only guided the pen of Sterne’s beloved Cervantes but of Sterne himself, he who birthed Tristram with so much more care and attention than I have been able to do in these few pages, with this doleful review which still cannot stand on its own two feet let alone walk a step, send my words if not on so meaningful, if meandering, a journey at least on some path, jagged and dusty though it may be, in which it may at least find some end worthwhile, some fragrant field in which it may come to lay down its head to rest in peace. I find no harm in leaning on Sterne’s words early on, and only wish that I had continued to do so, for even the invocation is a sloppy little affair, and with such an invocation what hope is there for the rest of this appraisal of Sterne’s most worthy work? Now hoping that this shoddy invocation will bear no weight on the remainder of this review and still counting about 9,000 some characters at my disposal (Egads – only 9,000!) – enough to fill a few small chapters of a work such as that of Sterne’s – I hope to repair the damage I have made so far and to proceed as I promised early on, in the following direction: The interjection “Egads” reminds me though, before continuing on the path I intend to take, that the notes to this work were most illuminating and I found the discussions on the etymology of the terms “Gadzooks” and “Zounds” to be most fascinating – meaning respectively “God’s hooks” and “God’s wounds.” The other notes by Melvyn New on the bawdy implications of certain terms and the historical meanings and allusions made in Sterne’s work were also very helpful to the modern reader. But this is just filling up space, and with every intention to speak of Uncle Toby’s amours (and of course of Tristram’s birth) I must follow that course which I set out for myself above. Now let's straighten this out the best we can and proceed as intended, for my path is becoming a bit like this: Let me take the advice given in the eighth volume of this novel— That of all the several ways of beginning a book (or in this case a review) which are now in practice throughout the known world, I am confident that my own way of doing it is the best (and Heaven knows that his way is if not the best at least far better than my own) – I’m sure it is the most religious – for I begin with the first sentence – and trusting to Almighty God for the second. – really the formula I should have followed from the beginning. Questions of agnosticism aside, let’s go on and pick up the pace so that we can get to the “choicest morsels” which end Sterne’s work and also get to the question of whether or not this work is complete or not. In other words, does the fulfilment of so many of the various digressive promises and namely the two chapters on Uncle Toby’s amours with the Widow Wadman – very choice indeed! (with a discussion of Corporal Trim’s amours even thrown in for good measure) – make Tristram Shandy complete? (See there, I shortened the title even further and still have about 8,000 characters to go, though again I notice my faults in so doing and will here forth refer to the novel simply as “TS” in order to save space and fulfill my own promises made above). In his essay on Shandy (or rather TS; I erred once here already and I vow not to make the same faux pas twice or may I suffer the same sad fate as Phutatorius! So *** help me) American literary critic Wayne Booth presents the argument that because Sterne fulfills all his promises on various chapters from buttonholes and pishes to digressions themselves and because he gets to the siege of Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim – the choice morsel that he had been promising readers from some of the earliest pages of his novel – that TS can be viewed as complete. To add strength to this argument Booth presents the following evidence: (A) All of the volumes except for the ninth (and last) volume ended with a sort of cliffhanger (Volume IX simply ends with all of the characters listening, ironically it may be added, to a “cock and bull” story – for what is TS itself but this? “And,” Yorick’s words are most fitting here, for his view of the tale represents my own as well, “one of the best of its kind I ever heard”). (B) While the novel is about Tristram Shandy and his life and opinions, his birth was overshadowed by the hobby-horses of both his father and his Uncle Toby, and though he gives us a glimpse of his adult life in Volume VII (which really could be viewed as a missing volume from A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy – which I shall refer to merely as A Sentimental Journey going forward to make way for other more necessary words, or better still, ASJ – or else ASJ, which details Yorick’s travels through Italy and France, could be seen as an epilogue to TS) he substitutes his stories about himself and his life for the story about his Uncle Toby’s amours. (C) That by the time he was writing ASJ Sterne was already growing tired of working on TS, which is evidenced by the slightness and the many white spaces in Volume IX of the work. At that point of his literary career, too, Sterne’s health was failing and his relationship with his wife (and his platonic relationship with Eliza Draper) was threatened and he wanted – allegedly – to put his focus on ASJ. Despite having promised to continue adding to TS to his death, Sterne’s additions to TS had become not only slighter, but less frequent, and ASJ he had promised to make into a four-volume work – though he completed only two volumes of it at the time of his death. While counterarguments could certainly be raised here I think there is some worthiness in Mr. Booth’s argument that shouldn’t be overlooked. But I’m not sure that it matters necessarily whether or not TS is really a complete work or not. Its place in literature has been cemented over the decades, and the influence of Mr. Sterne and his cock and bull story has been considerable. And why not? It’s funny (usually worthy of at least a chuckle if not a full, though more occasional, belly laugh), it’s witty (as should be the case with a story written by man with a nose like that!) and it is wildly inventive and original, even if Sterne does engage in a fair bit of imitation himself, for imitation (and even plagiarism) as they say (who says it exactly, I can’t say with any certainty) is the highest form of flattery. My form of imitation, however, imitating the imitators and not with much success is not as flattering – if anything it is just flat. But with the pressures of time pulling me and with a cognizance of the box within which I must work, I hope I have at least done some justice to Mr. Sterne’s fine work. And so with, according to Goodreads now (rather than Microsoft which has been too lenient with me it seems), about 1,000 characters left I must wrap up this miserable attempt of mimicry and this shabby little review. And not a minute too soon, for I – like Sterne when it came to TS (or at least as Mr. Booth's argument suggests, similar to the argument made by A. Alvarez in his notes to ASJ and Mr. New in his notes to this Penguin edition of TS) – am growing weary from writing this review (my longest to date, and hopefully my longest ever), and so to sally forth to the end of the line as quickly as possible, I lay this miserable child of mine to rest in this digital wasteland, with fewer than 300 characters remaining. And if ever found, with nothing more than this "X" to mark it, I ask that it be read with pity (if at all). For it was a failed attempt to mimic the mimickers of a very laudable work, the finest cock and bull story that exists.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    This book was decidedly strange and extremely inventive. Some parts were very funny and/or subtly bawdy. There were endless digressions about noses, groin injuries and hobby horses (although they may not have really been digressions). It took hundreds of pages just to get through the date of Tristram's birth. I listened to the audiobook read by Anton Lesser and he was very entertaining. I also followed along in the ebook. I think this book needs to be seen since there are all sorts of structural This book was decidedly strange and extremely inventive. Some parts were very funny and/or subtly bawdy. There were endless digressions about noses, groin injuries and hobby horses (although they may not have really been digressions). It took hundreds of pages just to get through the date of Tristram's birth. I listened to the audiobook read by Anton Lesser and he was very entertaining. I also followed along in the ebook. I think this book needs to be seen since there are all sorts of structural and typographical eccentricities.

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