Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Starting Tristram Shandy

I have finally begun reading The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (to give it its full, very 18th century title) by Laurence Sterne. It's slow reading so far, but still lots of fun. I find myself constantly looking up the footnotes at the back of the book. I so much prefer it when the footnotes are on the same page- it's still distracting but at least you don't have to be leafing back and forwards all the time. I suppose I could just skip the notes but my curiosity gets the better of me each time and I worry that I'm missing something crucial.

I seem to have digressed into discussing the footnotes when I wanted to write about how funny this book is. It's probably the influence of Tristram Shandy that has me losing my thread; the story is full of constant digressions with only the slightest nod to a narrative structure. The novel is, however, very funny and often very, very rude. I love that about 15 pages in the narrator finally finishes his dedication and then offers it up for sale:
If therefore there is any one Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount or Baron, in these his Majesty's dominions, who stands in need of a tight, genteel dedication, and whom the above will suit, (for bye the bye, unless it suits in some degree I will not part with it)- it is much at his service for fifty guineas;- which I am positive is twenty guineas less than it ought to be afforded for, by any man of genius.

Hopefully I can keep up the momentum with this book, it requires quite a lot of concentration, at least for my poor brain, but will be worth it in the end I know.

I've also just finished Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and am trying to put together a post that in some way captures the wonderful-ness of it.


Dorothy W. said...

Tristram Shandy is one of my favorite books ever! Enjoy.

jess said...

Yes, it seems great so far. I hope I enjoy it as much as you do, Dorothy!

Stephen said...

I love this one too. I remember reading it in a couple of days - once I'd started the momentum I couldn't stop!

Jeane said...

My father always had a copy of Tristam Shandy on his shelf, and something about its leather-bound spine looked inscrutable to me. I like to know a little more about it!

bookchronicle said...

Of all authors it's probably Sterne who would be most pleased that you have been sidetracked by footnotes. ;) I read Tristram Shandy for the first time last summer and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. If you get through it and desire something similar I Am A Cat is a great read too.