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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy,…

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

by Laurence Sterne

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,75253975 (3.93)5 / 309
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  1. 40
    Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Cecrow, ateolf)
    Cecrow: Spanish tale laced with humour, predates TS by 150 years.
  2. 20
    Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (Widsith)
    Widsith: The obvious companion book...funnier but less story-driven
  3. 10
    Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (laurapickle)
    laurapickle: Midnight's Children borrows much from Sterne (as well as many other novels!), reworking it into his Booker winning novel.
  4. 21
    Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais (ateolf)
  5. 10
    Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot (fvenez)
  6. 00
    My Brother Was an Only Child by Jack Douglas (Bill-once)
    Bill-once: Sterne's work and style subtly suffuse Douglas'
  7. 11
    Ulysses by James Joyce (henkl, roby72)
  8. 00
    Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (roby72)
  9. 00
    The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (DieFledermaus, StevenTX)

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English (52)  Italian (1)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
I wonder what Sterne would have thought of all the theorising about this book? The introduction to this volume claims that we should read 'Shandy' because it will help us avoid the 'rationalism' of 'totalitarianism' of the twentieth century; that we are too much like Mrs Wadman, who wants to know if Uncle Toby has a penis or not. We should leave the fortress unpenetrated, the mystery unrevealed, the riddle unsolved.
Of course, this idiocy is exactly what Sterne was writing against- not against rationalism, but against superstition uninformed by history or heart; not against rationalism, but against stupidity. That many literary critics (especially the 'postmodern' ones) can't distinguish between the two says more about the way we talk about our world than about the world itself, which is plainly and continuously stupid, and not at all rational.
Roy Porter says this book is 250 years ahead of its time, but the truth is, Barth and Leyner - and all the over specialists without spirit & sensualists without heart - are 250 years behind it. Sterne exhausted the form he created.

That rant over, this is a really funny dick joke. Plenty of the references are stale (unless you're really into seventeenth and eighteenth century theories of medicine, warfare, etc etc...), but you'll get the point pretty quickly anyway. But whatever you do, read it without the introductory material- there's nothing worse than explaining a dick joke as if it were an earth-shatteringly huge political statement, and Sterne knew it. ( )
2 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Although this is a tremendous book -- and tremendously important -- I am embarrassed to report I was unable to get all the way through it. It requires a quiet and consistent attention I currently lack.... I will try again later. I think it is brilliant, witty, inventive beyond description, and I can clearly see in it the roots of current contemporaries such as Vonnegut or even Pynchon. ( )
  bjellis | Dec 8, 2013 |
Though it was sometimes infuriating, it was highly amusing in small doses. I am disappointed that it ended. ( )
  DeFor | Nov 28, 2013 |
This novel cannot be described with just a few words. Probably one cannot describe the story at all. Tristram Shandy - or, more accurately, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman - is an attempt by said Tristram to lay down the story of his life. As the story is interrupted by countless digressions which are themselves again interrupted by digressions the 'author' comes around to relating his birth only on page 195. Actually, not much is revealed of the life of Tristram Shandy. But you get his opinions on the importance of noses, of a name, and of hobby-horses. What is more, we get to know his uncle Toby quite well throughout the story.

"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 on my outside; - and as we jog on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short, do anything, - only keep your temper." (p. 8)

I think the quotation above describes the reading experience best: You laugh with Tristram, you laugh at him, you despair at points, you wish for something else and then again you're sucked back into the book. Reading Tristram Shandy is anything but your usual reading. Although this is not a five star book for me, I can surely see how people would rate it with five stars easily. But on the whole, it was not completely convincing and at times it was even a struggle. I can only recommend to give it a try, though, and advise you to "keep your temper". 3.5 stars. ( )
  OscarWilde87 | Aug 8, 2013 |
There’s nothing quite like this in all the books I’ve read. Although in its erudition and exuberance and experimentation and bawdiness and its massive digressions it reminds me in some ways of Melville’s Moby Dick, in other ways of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, and in other ways of Joyce’s Ulysses.

I can think of friends I bet would just love this book. The ones who loved James Joyce’s Ulysses? I bet you would find this a hit. This reads more like modern extreme whackadoodle than traditional novel. Well, it was written from 1759 to 1767 in nine installments back when the novel could hardly be called a tradition. There’s just all kinds of weirdness. The title character isn’t even born until the third volume of nine. (He keeps telling us he’ll tell us about it, then keeps meandering and rambling on different subjects.) There are lots of allusions to Hamlet, Don Quixote, and even Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Early on in the first volume, after a character dies, the next two pages are black as if in mourning. Later, the narrator talks about penetrating the meaning of the “next marbled page (motly emblem of my work!)”--and the facing page is--marbled. Two chapters consist of blank pages, other chapters appear out of sequence. In one chapter there are “squiggly graphs” and in another a “twirling line” as the Introduction puts it. There are mad uses of asterisks. And digressions are very much part of the design--Sterne revels in them:

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;--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.

The point seems to be pointlessness. And you know, in the end you really don’t hear much about Tristam Shandy’s life--even if you do hear much of his opinions. Ugh. This is just too rambling and chaotic for me. You know, I read that Sterne’s favorite author is Rabelais--and I detested his Gargantua and Pantagruel, especially because it was filled with bathroom humor. I couldn’t make myself finish Swift’s “Tale of a Tub” either, and as the Introduction to this edition notes, Sterne was indebted to both. If that’s more your style of humor you may revel in this. I liked this a bit more at least than either of its models, though not enough to feel this was worth enduring to the end. Parts I did find funny, and it’s often clever, but at 578 pages the extended joke of narrative interruptus wore out its welcome long before we ever got to Tristram’s birth. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | Jul 1, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (103 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laurence Sterneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Austen, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Evans, BergenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesser, AntonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marías, JavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
New, JoanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
New, MelvynEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Priestley, J.B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ricks, ChristopherIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robinson, James K.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Self, WillIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watt, IanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wheelwright, RowlandIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Work, James A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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ταρασσει τους ἀνθρωπους οὐ τα πραγματα ἀλλα τα περι των πραγματων δογματα.

What stresses mankind is not things, but opinions about things --- Epictetus
To the Right Honourable Mr. Pitt.


Never poor Wight of a Dedicator had less hopes from his Dedication, than I have from this of mine; for it is written in a bye corner of the kingdom, and in a retir'd thatch'd house, where I live in a constant endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by mirth; being firmly persuaded that every time a man smiles,—but much more so, when he laughs, it adds something to this Fragment of Life.

I humbly beg, Sir, that you will honour this book, by taking it—(not under your Protection,—it must protect itself, but)—into the country with you; where, if I am ever told, it has made you smile; or can conceive it has beguiled you of one moment's pain—I shall think myself as happy as a minister of state;—perhaps much happier than any one (one only excepted) that I have read or heard of.

I am, Great Sir, (and, what is more to your Honour) I am, Good Sir, Your
Well-wisher, and most humble Fellow-subject,

The Author.
First words
"I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing; - that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind; - and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost: ---Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly, ---I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world from that in which the reader is likely to see me."

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?
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This is the original work by Laurence Sterne, not the graphic novel adaptation/commentary by Martin Rowson. It should not be combined with the Norton Critical Edition, nor with single volumes of a two or three volume set.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439777, Paperback)

The comic masterpiece Tristram Shandy is often regarded as a progenitor of the twentieth century novel. Within the resolutely tangled strands of this narrative is the life, from conception, of a gentleman cursed at birth with the name Tristram. Though everything occurs between parlor and garden, Tristram's excitable father, bewildered mother, and Uncle Toby provide ample opportunity for the digressions and madcap events that structure this seminal novel.

@ACockAndBallsStory I’ve just been born, and I had a tragic accident. A windowpane fell on me, and flattened my dic— NOSE. My nose! That was almost embarrassing.

Chapter XIX: I don’t feel like tweeting today.

From Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:02 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

At once endlessly facetious and highly serious, Sterne's great comic novel contains some of the best-known and best-loved characters in English literature--including Uncle Toby, Corporal Trim, Parson Yorick, and Dr. Slop--and boasts one of the most innovative and whimsical narrative styles in all literature. This revised edition of Sterne's extraordinary novel retains the text based on the first editions of the original nine volumes (with Sterne's later changes), adds two illustrations by William Hogarth, and expands and updates the introduction, bibliography, and notes, to make this the most critically up-to-date edition available. The text of the novel preserves, as far as possible, the appearance of Sterne's idiosyncratic typography and features such as black pages, marbled pages, blank pages, missing chapters and other devices. The introduction sheds light on the novel's innovations and influence and provides a biographical account of the author. Comprehensive notes identify the profusion of references and reveal previously overlooked sources. - Publisher.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439777, 0141199997

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