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Penguin Classics Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy Gentleman [Paperback]

Laurence Sterne , Melvyn New , Joan New
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 25 2003 Penguin Classics
Endlessly digressive, boundlessly imaginative and unmatched in its absurd and timeless wit, Laurence Sterne's "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" is edited with an introduction by Melvin New and Joan New, and includes a critical essay by Christopher Ricks in "Penguin Classics". Laurence Sterne's great masterpiece of bawdy humour and rich satire defies any attempt to categorize it, with a rich metafictional narrative that might classify it as the first 'postmodern' novel. Part novel, part digression, its gloriously disordered narrative interweaves the birth and life of the unfortunate 'hero' Tristram Shandy, the eccentric philosophy of his father Walter, the amours and military obsessions of Uncle Toby, and a host of other characters, including Dr Slop, Corporal Trim and the parson Yorick. A joyful celebration of the endless possibilities of the art of fiction, Tristram Shandy is also a wry demonstration of its limitations. The text and notes of this volume are based on the acclaimed Florida Edition, with a critical introduction by Melvyn New and Christopher Ricks' introductory essay from the first "Penguin Classics" edition. Laurence Sterne (1713-1768) graduated from Cambridge in 1737 and took holy orders, becoming a prebend in York Cathedral. His masterpiece, "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" made him a celebrity but ill-health necessitated recuperative travel and "A Sentimental Journey" grew out of a seven-month trip through France and Italy. If you enjoyed "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy", you might like Henry Fielding's "Tom Jones", also available in "Penguin Classics". "The excellent Florida Tristram Shandy...will be the definitive edition". (Studies in English Literature). "The book that I would never tire of...Sterne was about 250 years ahead of his time". (Roy Porter, author of "Enlightenment: Britain And The Creation Of The Modern World").

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From Library Journal

Rowson, an illustrator whose version of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland met with critical praise, turns his considerable skills to Laurence Sterne's 18th-century classic. This appears a sure bet: a new reading of a well-known book. Yet, the novel doesn't make the transition into the graphic format smoothly. Rowson's admiration for Tristram Shandy hinders this graphic version, causing him to rely on the text rather than the illustrations to pace the story. Moreover, this book becomes not only another version of Tristram Shandy but a commentary on reading it as several celebrities wend their way through the plot, which includes a hypothetical game of strip poker between Sterne, Swift, and Rabelais and the filming of the novel by movie producer Oliver Stone. Too complex for those unfamiliar with the original, this is nonetheless recommended for libraries with large graphic novel and literature collections.?Stephen Weiner, Maynard P.L., Mass.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

Rowson's graphic novel of Laurence Sterne's famous ``cock and bull'' story (often called the first modern novel) will disappoint readers looking for a ``Classic Comics'' crib version. Which is, of course, the very strength of this wickedly inventive re-creation of Sterne's notoriously self-reflexive book. Employing a visual style that blends Hogarth with Gilbert Shelton (of Furry Freak Bros. fame), Rowson himself shows up on the page for some meta-level commentary of his own, and reimagines scenes from Sterne in the styles of Drer, Beardsley, Grosz, and George Harriman, not to mention one from Oliver Stone's movie version. Rowson also rewrites key passages in the manner of Martin Amis, Raymond Chandler, and Garc¡a M rquez (among others). Tackling such an inherently unadaptable novel, Rowson nevertheless selects many of the most memorable sections for extended visualizations: Tristram's birth and naming, Uncle Toby's famous wound and hobbyhorse, and the history of family noses. All provide occasion for Sterne's bawdy, which Rowson makes somewhat more explicit. As critical commentary and scholarly play, this rude and splendid comic book will delight true Shandeans. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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;1 had they duly consider'd how much depended upon what they were then doing;-that not only the production of a rational Being was concern'd in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature2 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 humours3 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. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pre-modern postmodern! June 6 2009
A line from the movie "adaptation" put it best: this was a postmodern novel before there was any modernism to be post to.

Simply put, Laurence Sterne threw out all the literary conventions of what a novel should be and how it should be arranged, a few hundred years before more recent writers like Calvino, Joyce and Danielewski did. The result is "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman," a gloriously rambling, richly entertaining sort-of-novel.

"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." So begins Tristram, who starts his life story with his "begetting," and attempts to tell the story of his birth and life, as well as the descriptions of relatives -- his lovable uncle Toby, his eccentric dad, his patient mother (who's in labor for most of the book).

But as he tries to tell us about his life, Tristram keeps getting sidetracked by all the stories that surround him -- his uncle's romance with the Widow Wadman and the war in which he received a nasty wound in a sensitive spot, the French, the doctor who delivered him, letters in multiple languages, the parson, the personal history of the midwife, and what curses are appropriate for what occasions.

Most novels are pretty straightforward -- they have a beginning, a middle and an end. But "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" totally ignores that, by having a beginning that lasts for the whole book, dozens of "middles," and no real end (it just stops at a suitable spot). All of this is without a real structure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars England's first hobby-horsical novel July 3 2004
If you read and enjoyed Don Quixote, with its endless digressions and ridiculous situations, you are likely to enjoy reading Tristram Shandy. Even if you hated reading Pamela, you may still enjoy Tristram Shandy. "Learned nonsense" describes it very well. The demands it makes on the reader, however, are comparable to those made by works such as Ulysses, Gravitys Rainbow and J.R.. The Penguin edition contains over 120 pages of notes as well as a useful "Glossary of Terms of Fortification" to help the reader along. (You just never know when you might need to know what a "circumvallation" is.) All the same, I first read T.S. in the old Signet Classic edition, ($.95) which contained virtually no annotations, and I still enjoyed it. And then there are the strange neologisms (such as "hobby-horsical"), and the even sillier names. It gets better with repeated readings and it will make you laugh. After T.S., you may want to tackle Anatomy of Melancholy. My only disappointment with T.S.: there was no mechanical duck!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Radical even in the 21st century April 18 2004
By A.J.
Composed long before there were rules about what a novel is supposed to look like, "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy" is a visionary piece of literature, a book so original in construction it almost defies genre. Conceived by an Anglican vicar who, under the comic influence of Rabelais and Swift and equally informed by Cervantes and Shakespeare, turned to writing fiction later in his life, it is an inadvertent masterpiece, the product of a writer who just wanted to have fun and entertain his readers and ultimately entertained generations.
The book is not a fictitious autobiography, although its narrator Tristram Shandy might have intended it to be; most of the story is concerned not with his life but with his idiosyncratic family and the circumstances surrounding his conception and birth, with many digressions on various related and unrelated subjects. His father Walter, whose conjugal duties coincide with his having to wind the clock the first Sunday of every month, compiles a compendium of information he calls the Tristrapoedia for the education of his newborn son. His uncle Toby, an expert in military architecture, rides a hobby-horse and occupies his time with the science of besieging fortresses. Other characters include Corporal Trim, a former soldier and now Toby's valet and factotum; Dr. Slop, a dwarfish physician who delivers the baby Tristram; and Yorick the parson, who naturally is descended from the infamous jester of the Danish royal court.
There are two aspects to this book that distinguish Sterne's style.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ad ovo March 29 2004
Tristram Shandy begins to tell his story literally ad ovo... his unfortunate life begins its down turn at the very moment of conception when his mother turns away his father's attention by remembering the clock. Lawrence Sterne accomplishes one of the most humorous and yet innovative and unbelievably complex novels in history. While the reader waits for Tristram to come to the world, the characters are introduced through the most delicious and sophisticated game with ideas, opinions and ambiguous expresions, which connect, for example, uncle Toby's hobby horses with sexual behavours and problems of miscomunication. Misunderstandings reveal the unaccurate nature of language in a time when the illustration worked hard on capitalizing all human knowledge through the enciclopedia. A clever parody of the ideas of its time is what Sterne delivers with humour and resourcefullness. I find this book to be even stranger than James Joyce's "Ulysses", mainly because of its use of the page, in which he inserts lines representing the evolution of his tale, black spots, or he leaves a blank page so the reader can draw there. It is a truely memorable work of art, which everyone should read in order to put in perspective the literary works of the XXth century which are proclamed to be the most original pieces in history.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual . . .
This novel has the length of a Victorian work but both its vocabulary and subject matter are not at all puritan. Read more
Published on June 24 2011 by Pierre Gauthier
5.0 out of 5 stars Stream-of-opinions
A line from the movie "adaptation" put it best: this was a postmodern novel before there was any modernism to be post to. Read more
Published on April 2 2007 by E. A Solinas
2.0 out of 5 stars Left me Flat, better things out there
Having read a fair amount of 17th and 18th century European literature I looked forward to another good experience. Unfortunately Trisham Shandy did not live up to its reputation. Read more
Published on June 13 2004 by Jack L. Keller
5.0 out of 5 stars Germinal comic masterpiece
There is so much in this novel one hardly knows where to begin, which is Sterne's hilarious problem for the first 300 pages or so. Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2004 by Wordsworth
1.0 out of 5 stars Over-rated
Tristram Shandy is a self-indulgent, pretentious mess. Laurence Sterne seems more concerned with his erudition than with telling his story. Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2004 by mike hall
5.0 out of 5 stars A Crazy kinda Greatness. Read it , you'll see.
Reviewer: A reader from Asheville, NC USA
Have you ever wanted to read a book where the author decides to "rip out" one of the chapters, or leaves a blank page for... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential
This is a wonderful book and any humanist who doesn't mind 18th-century English should read it. I feel a love and affection for Uncle Toby, and certain other characters from here,... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2003 by Desultor
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious.
I can't believe there aren't any reviews here, yet. At any rate, this is an absolutely fantastic book -- it's more performance art than anything else, really. Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2003 by Katha Slater
4.0 out of 5 stars Much more than a mere plot
This book was such a pleasure to read with the most endearing characters ever. People on the subway must have thought I was strange when I was snickering to myself over this book. Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2002 by Dina
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