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Tristram Shandy (Norton Critical Editions) [Paperback]

Laurence Sterne Howard Anderson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book by Sterne, Laurence

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pre-modern postmodern! June 6 2009
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual . . . June 24 2011
By Pierre Gauthier TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
This novel has the length of a Victorian work but both its vocabulary and subject matter are not at all puritan. Themes discussed include for instance intra-uterine baptism and accidental circumcision!

The running joke is that the reporter constantly digresses from his digressions and seems incapable of ever getting to his point. In this pseudo-autobiographical work, the narrator's birth finally happens only a good fourth into the book! Presumably, the intent is to be comical but the result is rather silly and even tedious to a modern reader.

Published in nine volumes in the 1760's, the novel definitely appears unstructured. It ends without any true conclusion and one feels that many more volumes could have been written and published. Anyhow, there is no plot as such and, despite the title, little is actually learned about Tristram Shandy and his life. The main characters are really his father, a superficial man with very set preconceived notions on a whole series of subjects, and his rather pathetic and anti-social uncle, marked by his war injury _ in the groin!

The author succeeds in being very original in a variety of ways: by very frequently addressing the reader, by limiting some chapters to a single sentence and even including blank ones, by making very long quotations in French and Latin or long pointless lists such as the number of streets in each of the various Paris neighbourhoods, etc.

Overall, this book can only be recommended to those interested in the history of the British novel with a marked curiosity for atypical 18th century works.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stream-of-opinions April 2 2007
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars England's first hobby-horsical novel
If you read and enjoyed Don Quixote, with its endless digressions and ridiculous situations, you are likely to enjoy reading Tristram Shandy. Read more
Published on July 3 2004 by Phutatorius
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 Radical even in the 21st century
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... Read more
Published on April 18 2004 by A.J.
5.0 out of 5 stars Ad ovo
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... Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by C. Mejía
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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