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arbieroo

Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Embers of War
Gareth L. Powell
The Uncertain Land and Other Poems
Patrick O'Brian
Progress: 6/160 pages
The Poems and Plays of John Masefield
John Masefield
Progress: 76/534 pages
Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
Nicholas Ostler
Progress: 122/615 pages
Selected Poems
U A Fanthorpe
Progress: 16/160 pages
Hainish Novels & Stories, Vol. 2
Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 133/789 pages
The Art Book
Editors of Phaidon Press
Progress: 11/515 pages
The Essential Shakespeare
Ted Hughes
Progress: 78/259 pages
Introduction to Topology
Bert Mendelson
Progress: 10/224 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne

Tristram Shandy - Laurence Sterne

So...this book is one giant joke constructed of smaller jokes and it takes the mick out of nigh on everything; novels, novelists, travel, travel writers, army officers, doctors, clergymen, amours, marriage, you name it, and not least readers.

 

Considered by some to be the first Modernist novel, appearing nearly two centuries before the term was coined, there's no over-all plot and only a few episodes that could really constitute something approaching a sub-plot, there are blank chapters, a space for one to do a portrait of one of the characters and other visual puns, including one on the structure of the book itself and on and on but the main approach is to digress; the digressions pile one on another so high that we don't get to the titular character's birth until about p150...it all crazy, irreverent, scandalous for the time (especially being written by a member of the clergy) and very, very silly if one just goes along with the mood and drops any expectation of even the normal conventions of the novel of the period, let alone the present day.

 

But - there had to be one, right? But, after a while the jokes wear thin through repetition, the later stages dragging because of it. Originally released as nine books over a period of years, contemporaries could not have done what we all do now and pick it up as a single volume and try to read it from start to finish in one focused push - and that was to its advantage. Serial publication meant one could not over-dose very easily, which I did despite taking months of not really hurrying. It might be better read as originally published; as nine separate books spread out over a much longer period of time than I took.