Laurence Sterne’s most famous novel is a biting satire of literary conventions and contemporary 18th-century values. Renowned for its parody of established narrative techniques, Tristram Shandy is commonly regarded as the forerunner of avant-garde fiction. Tristram’s characteristic digressions on a whole range of unlikely subjects (including battle strategy and noses!) are endlessly surprising and make this one of Britain’s greatest comic achievements. A cast of strange characters populate this strangest of novels: gentle Uncle Toby, sarcastic Walter, and of course, the pompous, garrulous Tristram himself. This edition is read by Anton Lesser in a tour de force performance. Please note: In print, Tristram Shandy is filled with visual, typographical, and compositing jokes - pages that are completely blank, pages that are completely black, misplaced chapters or chapters consisting only of their title, squiggly lines to indicate waving a stick, and much more besides. This audiobook tries in a variety of ways to match Sterne's invention with aural equivalents.
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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 Tristram 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. BTW, the NAXOS/Lesser audio version is amazing AMAZING, but you still want the text in front of you because part of Sterne's genius is SEEN not just heard.
IF this seems like an odd obsession after reading/finishing/listening to Tristram Shandy, perhaps (I am guessing) you haven't READ it. 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman' 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 * a$$hole (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 (all is not to minimize it, simply to localize ti) it did was spit out a long sequence of digressions (All your base are belong to us). Anyway, my wife informed me that she loved just watching me read/listen (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 250 years. A future me will be looking at old YouTube videos and will think GOD why didn't more people appreciate him?
- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"
Much better than the first time
I originally tried reading this in high school, and the whole thing seemed like an insane mess to me, not funny at all. It was somewhat over my head, let's say. Same thing happened with Gulliver's Travels for me. I hated the book for a long time because I read it too early. This is a brilliant book really, and alternates from being mildly funny, to annoying, to hilarious. The whole gag is that the author keeps procrastinating and never getting anywhere, and its similar in style of humor to anything that is funny at first, and becomes funny again if you keep the joke up. I started to giggle at times as I realized just how long nothing had happened! I wondered how anyone could keep up the delays and marvelled at the originality. However, this won't be for everyone, and the joke is a bit subtle for some maybe, who will just wonder, why on earth does anyone read this when there is no story and nothing happens?
Its very British. So if you do not like British humor, then avoid this. Not that all British humor is the same, but its not straight at you, wink and stamp the foot while the joke is told American style humor. So some will miss it. The narration is wonderful, and helps immensely from my experience trying to read this myself. He emphasizes often and has unique voices for each of the characters which helps quite a bit to prevent boredom and keep things straight and only towards the end did I begin to sigh and want it to wrap up. This might be one that is better paired with another book so you can alternate between them. I was listening at a typing job and always try to have several books going depending on mood, so I can flip flop. I now understand just why the book is considered a classic and in that regard am very happy to have purchased and tried it again. One of those books better as an audio. Funny.