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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.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,000811,034 (3.91)5 / 413
  1. 50
    Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Cecrow, ateolf)
    Cecrow: Spanish tale laced with humour, predates TS by 150 years.
  2. 20
    Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot (fvenez)
  3. 31
    Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais (ateolf)
  4. 20
    Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (Widsith)
    Widsith: The obvious companion book...funnier but less story-driven
  5. 31
    Ulysses by James Joyce (henkl, roby72)
  6. 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.
  7. 10
    Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (roby72)
  8. 00
    Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (uri-starkey)
  9. 00
    My Brother Was an Only Child by Jack Douglas (Bill-once)
    Bill-once: Sterne's work and style subtly suffuse Douglas'
  10. 00
    Epitaph of a Small Winner by Machado de Assis (DieFledermaus)
Satire (69)

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English (80)  Italian (1)  All languages (81)
Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
Mrs. Dalloway chronicles a June day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway—a day that is taken up with running minor errands in preparation for a party and that is punctuated, toward the end, by the suicide of a young man she has never met. In giving an apparently ordinary day such immense resonance and significance—infusing it with the elemental conflict between death and life—Virginia Woolf triumphantly discovers her distinctive style as a novelist. Originally published in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway is Woolf's first complete rendering of what she described as the "luminous envelope" of consciousness: a dazzling display of the mind's inside as it plays over the brilliant surface and darker depths of reality.

This edition uses the text of the original British publication of Mrs. Dalloway, which includes changes Woolf made that never appeared in the first or subsequent American editions.
  JESGalway | Feb 12, 2019 |
(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.

The novel arguably presents a different formal challenge. Its name tells us it is new, and over the three centuries (or more, depending on what you think the first novel was) that it has been in existence. Novels have evolved formally. First person narratives, epistolary assemblages, impersonal authors then all the other novel forms of the novel that a literary historian might tell us about. A telling point about some of these historical accounts is that the writer often announces, in conclusion, that the novel is dead. Well, formalist literary historians can't be expected to write the next novel that defeats critical expectations, can they? That's the job of the novelist.

There is a great deal of pleasure in reading a particular novelist one enjoys: that might either be in following a course of lifetime development, or in reading pretty much the same thing over and over again. Nothing wrong either way. But every time you pick up a book with expectations that it might be like the last book of that sort you read, and then you find it isn't, then there is a difficulty. Do you throw it away, or persevere?

Obviously you don't want the same book again, but in many ways when you read a series of books by the same author you are getting pretty much the same book again. The difficult challenge comes when you step outside your own comfort zone. You might regret your waste of time and money more than once, but that will be balanced by your pleasure when you enjoy finding something new at least to you. If your bag is formal development of the novel, then discovering a writer who has moved the fictional goalposts a few meters will be even more rewarding.

The biggest difficulty about reading is that there is far too much to read, and none of us have very much time, and we are most of us lazy creatures who resist change. If we want difficult books that are worth the time then there is plenty of advice: Dante for example. If we want to pick writers out of the current crop then we should be prepared to kiss plenty of frogs, and if we are really keen to learn another language or two.

There are many ways for books to be good and some of those involve being 'difficult'. Ulysses or Tristram Shandy could not be the same if they were written in a more straightforward style. Their difficulty isn't some unfortunate characteristic offsetting their good points; it is intrinsic to their quality. The question you should be asking isn't 'If this book can be great and readable, why aren't all books as easy to read?'. Instead it should be 'are there difficult books that reward the effort?' As the answer is unequivocally yes, some books do need to be difficult.

Good books "draw you in", and sometimes that drawing in is through complexity or through a breaking of expectations. Good books make you engage with them and with yourself. An encounter with a good book is similar to an encounter with another person: sometimes it just doesn't work, even though you want it to work. I never made it beyond chapter 2 of Tristram Shandy, despite many efforts ... but not because the book is difficult, but because the encounter just did not play out. Other complex books for me turned out to be true "page turners": Mann's Doctor Faustus and the Magic Mountain, all and any of Henry James, those many volumes of Proust. Few supposedly "readable" novels have the same effect on me, I guess because they do not make me experience a true encounter with something that matters. As to Lawrence Sterne, I had to make do with his "Sentimental Journey", I took it on my work commute for a while, one chapter a day on the train, I still remember those weeks. "Tristram Shandy" I will keep trying, but perhaps it is not meant to be. ( )
  antao | Nov 18, 2018 |
Life is too short. Gave it a shot, but waaaaayyyyyy too many other books that I would prefer to spend my remaining years reading. I'm kinda weird. I like a plot and characters and shit. No sign of either in the early going of this one. Buh-bye. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 3, 2018 |
150/500 ( )
  Drfreddy94 | Jul 17, 2018 |
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. ( )
  fhudnell | Jun 13, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (94 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laurence Sterneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Austen, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cleland, T. M.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Corinth, LovisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, LindseyForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Evans, BergenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrence, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesser, AntonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Levi, CarloContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marías, JavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melchiori, GiorgioForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meo, AntonioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morley, ChristopherIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
New, JoanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
New, MelvynEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petrie, GrahamEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Phelps, GilbertIntroductionsecondary 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?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
1908 German edition available online at The Hathi Trust:
Haiku summary

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:41 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Offers the classic story of a young man's experiences since conception and his interpretation of the art of writing.

» see all 10 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439777, 0141199997

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