Tristram Shandy & A Sentimental Journey

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy by Laurence Sterne, 2/5tristram shandy

With its unconventionally rambling narrative and unsubtle innuendos, I am not surprised that this book created quite a stir in the 1700s.  However, stripped of its shock value by modern times, Tristram Shandy seems to me little more than the idle fantasies of a bored and not especially talented hobby writer.  There are a few quality passages (especially those involving the Widow Wadman) but overall I get the distinct feeling that Sterne just wrote whatever drivel came into his head and, if he had lived in modern times, would probably have been too busy re-watching old episodes of Lost to write at all.

[Why I read it: I’ve been meaning to read it for years, since first seeing it mentioned in C.S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy:

For eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.  Of course not all books are suitable for mealtime reading.  It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table.  What one wants is a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere.  The ones I learned so to use at Bookham were Boswell, and a translation of Herodetus, and Lang’s History of English Literature.  Tristram Shandy, Elia and the Anatomy of Melancholy are all good for the same purpose (142).

Also, many actors I like are in the movie version of the book, so I recently watched it, which led to my customary feelings of obligation to read the book (and feelings of guilt for not having read the book first).]


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