Monday, December 7, 2009

Lawrence Sterne - Tristram Shandy

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Once in a while I pick up Tristram Shandy and read a few pages at a time. Try I hard as I might, I cannot to save my soul stay with the book for a long period of time. Yet I know there’s much wisdom there as there’s foolishness in the world. Like eating ice cream or a good steak: let’s take human bites. The Irishman Laurence Sterne published his bizarre novel in nine volumes, the first two appearing in 1759, and seven others following over the next 10 years. It is a humorous work, though some critics —Samuel Johnson among them— found it odd and predicted that it would not survive. When it comes to predictions it’s wiser to keep mum and let people think we are slow and simple-minded, than to shoot our mouths and confirm that we are indeed so.
Order isn’t the order of the day in this novel. The beginning you’ll find in the middle, after a million digressions which are really the narrator’s recollections and interactions with friends and relatives. I like the irreverent Parson Yorick, Uncle Toby, and the widow Wadam. Here’s a lesson for writers for who are apt to write biographies:
“I am this month one whole year older than I was this time twelve-month; and having got ... almost into the middle of my fourth volume—and no farther than to my first day's life—'tis demonstrative that I have three hundred and sixty-four days more life to write just now, than when I first set out ... write as I will ... I shall never overtake myself.... At the worst I shall have one day the start of my pen—and one day is enough for two volumes—and two volumes will be enough for one year.”
That one can write volumes upon volumes and advance no further than our brand new spanking first day in this world is encouraging; encouraging because it proves that there’s no shortage of material when it comes to writing about our own wonderful days. What is one do say of an author that inserts a blank page in his novel, so that it is not only free from his own sins but also from others’ slanders:
“Thrice happy book! Thou wilt have one page, at least, within thy covers, which MALICE will not blacken, and which IGNORANCE cannot misrepresent.”
Just a few days ago I wrote on article on the use and abuse of adverbs. For some reason I titled the article “War on ‘Ly-Ending’ Adverbs. I thought I was being original, but the originality should go to Lawrence Sterne who had already used the war metaphor: “So that the life of a writer, whatever he might fancy to the contrary, was not so much a state of composition, as a state of warfare; and his probation in it, precisely that of any other man militant upon earth,—both depending alike, not half so much upon the degrees of his WIT—as his RESISTANCE.”

If you like a good chuckle, read Tristram Shandy, for the novel is entertaining and humorous. And along the way you’ll find the author’s philosophical disquisitions which are the less attractive parts of the book—like the treatment of death, reality, and other serious matters.



Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


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