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Tristram Shandy provoked a literary sensation when it first appeared in a series of installments between 1759 and 1767. The ribald, high-spirited book prompted Diderot to hail Sterne as 'the English Rabelais.' An ingeniously structured novel (about writing a novel) that fascinates like a verbal game of chess, Tristram Shandy is both a joyful celebration of the infinite possibilities of the art of fiction and a wry demonstration of its limitations. Many view this picaresque masterpiece as the precursor of the modern novel.

A Sentimental Journey, which came out in 1768, begins as a travelogue. Yet it ends as a treasury of portraits, sketches, and philosophical musings, for as Virginia Woolf observed: 'A Sentimental Journey, for all its levity and wit, is based upon something fundamentally philosophic--the philosophy of pleasure.'
Published: Random House Publishing Group an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on Feb 10, 1999
ISBN: 9780679641964
List price: $2.99
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This is a very fanciful, whimsical book, and--stylistically--well ahead of its time. However, the subject matter is quite archaic. I made it about 300 pages in before I had gotten tired of all the digressions, and stopped reading it. It's a funny book and fairly entertaining--worth looking at, but after a while it grows tiresome.read more
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Sorry, I could not finish this. I made it to about page 250. Which was better than anyone else in my book club. I felt better knowing no one else could finish it either.The same joke — 18th century English gentry’s formal speech is funny ha ha ha — for 600-800 pages depending on the edition you pick up is a bit much. Maybe there was something of a language gap? Yes, but everyone in my book club agreed that when we read Shakespeare we don’t have the same problem. When we read Grandpa Willie we read it and laugh and are amazed. Not so much with Sterne. I chuckled through first 30 pages and the rest was grind. It’s worth noting Shandy was originally published in installments so no one in the 18th century was hitting an 800 page monster.I admit there is probably a lot more going on thematically than I realize since I didn’t finish. Sometimes the aboutness of a work grows like a benign tumor (or maybe a malignant tumor in the case of a book like Infinite Jest). I reluctantly acknowledge my ignorance and bow out. I wouldn’t feel so bad about myself if the book I am reading in lieu of finishing Shandy wasn’t John Krakauer’s book about Pat Tillman. It feels low. Maybe that is not so bad. Maybe that is like choosing to watch Frontline over Masterpiece Theatre.read more
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I've wrestled with what to write about Tristram Shandy since I finished it. It isn't a book you can sum up very well, and the most entertaining bits of it are best found on your own, I think.So I'll just say this: it's not as hard to read as you might think. The language takes some getting used to, and I read it at a pace of 20-30 pages a day. But you do acclimate to it and get into a rhythm. And yes, it's full of digressions and stories within stories and soliloquies about battles and fortifications, but it's also full of moments that make you go "wait, what did he just say?!" and make you re-evaluate what you thought you knew about propriety in the 18th century.Recommended for: anyone who's up for a bit of a challenge, people who are okay with the absurd.Quote: "But my father's mind took unfortunately a wrong turn in the investigation; running, like the hypercritic's, altogether upon the ringing of the bell and the rap upon the door, -- measuring their distance, and keeping his mind so intent upon the operation, as to have power to think of nothing else, -- commonplace infirmity of the greatest mathematicians! working with might and main at the demonstration and so wasting all their strength upon it, that they have none left in them to draw the corollary, to do good with."read more
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This is a very fanciful, whimsical book, and--stylistically--well ahead of its time. However, the subject matter is quite archaic. I made it about 300 pages in before I had gotten tired of all the digressions, and stopped reading it. It's a funny book and fairly entertaining--worth looking at, but after a while it grows tiresome.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Sorry, I could not finish this. I made it to about page 250. Which was better than anyone else in my book club. I felt better knowing no one else could finish it either.The same joke — 18th century English gentry’s formal speech is funny ha ha ha — for 600-800 pages depending on the edition you pick up is a bit much. Maybe there was something of a language gap? Yes, but everyone in my book club agreed that when we read Shakespeare we don’t have the same problem. When we read Grandpa Willie we read it and laugh and are amazed. Not so much with Sterne. I chuckled through first 30 pages and the rest was grind. It’s worth noting Shandy was originally published in installments so no one in the 18th century was hitting an 800 page monster.I admit there is probably a lot more going on thematically than I realize since I didn’t finish. Sometimes the aboutness of a work grows like a benign tumor (or maybe a malignant tumor in the case of a book like Infinite Jest). I reluctantly acknowledge my ignorance and bow out. I wouldn’t feel so bad about myself if the book I am reading in lieu of finishing Shandy wasn’t John Krakauer’s book about Pat Tillman. It feels low. Maybe that is not so bad. Maybe that is like choosing to watch Frontline over Masterpiece Theatre.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I've wrestled with what to write about Tristram Shandy since I finished it. It isn't a book you can sum up very well, and the most entertaining bits of it are best found on your own, I think.So I'll just say this: it's not as hard to read as you might think. The language takes some getting used to, and I read it at a pace of 20-30 pages a day. But you do acclimate to it and get into a rhythm. And yes, it's full of digressions and stories within stories and soliloquies about battles and fortifications, but it's also full of moments that make you go "wait, what did he just say?!" and make you re-evaluate what you thought you knew about propriety in the 18th century.Recommended for: anyone who's up for a bit of a challenge, people who are okay with the absurd.Quote: "But my father's mind took unfortunately a wrong turn in the investigation; running, like the hypercritic's, altogether upon the ringing of the bell and the rap upon the door, -- measuring their distance, and keeping his mind so intent upon the operation, as to have power to think of nothing else, -- commonplace infirmity of the greatest mathematicians! working with might and main at the demonstration and so wasting all their strength upon it, that they have none left in them to draw the corollary, to do good with."
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As its title suggests, the book is ostensibly Tristram's narration of his life story. But central to the novel is the theme of not explaining anything simply, thus there are explanatory diversions to add context and colour to his tale, to the extent that we do not even reach Tristram's own birth until Volume III. However, beginning the narrative before one has been born is not unique in literature, for example see the opening chapter of David Copperfield. Consequently, apart from Tristram as narrator, the most familiar and important characters in the book are his father Walter, his mother, his Uncle Toby, Toby's servant Trim, and a supporting cast of minor characters including Doctor Slop and the parson Yorick (no doubt inspired by Shakespeare).Most of the action is concerned with domestic upsets or misunderstandings, which find humour in the opposing temperaments of Walter—splenetic, rational and somewhat sarcastic—and Uncle Toby, who is gentle, uncomplicated and a lover of his fellow man. "The long-nosed Stranger of Strasburg": Book IV opens with a story from one of Walter's favourite books, a collection of stories in Latin about noses.In between such events, Tristram as narrator finds himself discoursing at length on sexual practices, insults, the influence of one's name, noses, as well as explorations of obstetrics, siege warfare and philosophy, as he struggles to marshal his material and finish the story of his life. What makes this novel remarkable is the seeming modernity of the technique and style. As with Rabelais, Sterne does not follow the "rules" for writing a novel, thus one encounters multiple allusions to other writers and their works and interjections of many kinds into the novel so that you begin to wonder what kind of book this is. Sterne was particularly influenced by Rabelais and his bawdy humor is no doubt due in part to that influence. This is not an easy read but one worth taking in small sections, a bit at a time. Having read Tristram Shandy you may be ready for twenty-first century post-modern literature or you may want to hang up the idea of literature altogether.
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"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." Laurence SterneIndisputably the most fun one can have alone with a book. An absolute favorite.
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I really wanted to like it, because the persistent drollery kept seeming like it would develop into something really funny, and because the author seemed to be trying so hard, but this book really delivers little.
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