Laurence Sterne (1713–68) was born and spent his early childhood in Ireland, before moving to England, where he studied at Cambridge and became a clergyman. The work for which he is most famous, ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’, is acknowledged as one of the most significant mileposts in the early development of the novel form.
Tristram Shandy (Collins Classics)by Laurence Sterne
HarperCollins is proud to present its incredible range of best-loved, essential classics.Now seen as one of the great English comic novels, ‘Tristram Shandy’ caused a stir on publication in polite 18th-century English society. The novel broke with conventions of form and structure, foreshadowing postmodern authors by 200 years, and scandalized with bawdy descriptions and rambling prose. Hugely influenced by Francis Bacon, Rabelais and Jonathan Swift, clergyman Lawrence Sterne manages to both eloquently champion the literary and scientific views of the day, and to satirize those same idols in the next outrageous breath.The questionable ‘hero’ and narrator of the novel, the eponymous Tristram Shandy, attempts to tell the reader his life story, but as he digresses ever further on everything from sexual practices, the importance of a name, obstetrics, linguistics, weaponry and philosophy, the reader quickly learns that the path won’t be a linear one, and gets wrapped up in the author’s exuberance and wit – as Tristram’s ill-fated conception and birth don’t even enter the story until Volume III. Encompassing a humorously memorable cast of misfits, including his eccentric father Walter, obsessive Uncle Toby, accident-prone mother Susannah, pastor Yorick, and a gaggle of other characters, Tristram Shandy’s restless energy and modern-seeming wit explain why Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Schopenhauer, Michael Winterbottom, and Michael Nyman count among its numerous fans.
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Update to my previous 3-star rating (posted anonymously by mistake): I'm about a quarter of the way through the book, and after a half-dozen obvious errors in the text, and more passages that look doubtful, I give up on this e-book. I'll look for a print edition. (Not the recent Modern Library edition though--their edition of Gibbon was worse than this e-book, though they've done good work on other books.) It's a shame, because I'm really enjoying the book. Sterne's approach is odd, but quite successful so far. Any given page looks interminable, but every few pages the cumulative effect is that I laugh out loud. And as far as its place in literary history goes, it's so seminal the stuff is oozing out all over. Other problems noted in previous review: Title doesn't show correctly on my Nook. Book is DRM'd, so this can't be easily fixed.
Innovative at those early times