Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Laurence Sterne knows how to Ramble

I am sick to the back of my teeth of revision and it's only day two. I feel I've done enough for today but decided to finish with a blog post that is effectively revision in itself. On Sunday night, I finally finished Laurence Sterne's gruelling novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Some of you will know that I gave up on it one hundred pages in back at Easter, and then gave it another go recently. 

I have to admit, Tristram Shandy did grow on me, although it was a book that I tuned in and out of. At times I took nothing in for many pages, but I mostly grasped the plot (if you can call it a plot). Stylistically, it's a fascinating read, and in some ways the visual, textual devices tell you more than the fragmented narrative itself, from the dramatic double-sided black page and marble page, to the blank page upon which he invites the reader to draw a picture of the character he describes. The novel is pure filth and full of double meanings, although Sterne attributes these to the reader's dirty mind. Our lecturer said that the two main elements of the novel are sex and death. If you grasp this, then you can pretty well grasp the novel. 

The narrator himself, Tristram Shandy, consistently digresses and consequently never gets very far with the storyline, although that seems to be the whole point of the text, which is intended to reflect the formlessness of life and the impossibility of mapping it out and documenting it fully. When you embark on the novel, you effectively embark on a journey with the narrator. For all his annoying habits you can't help but grow quite fond of Tristram Shandy, even though at times he bores you to tears! I'm really glad I persevered with the novel and made it to the end. 


Anna said...

One of the things ( out of the hundreds )
that I love about you is your endless work ethic.
English literature is one of my great loves,but having to read novels like that would bring me out in a rash.
Now dearie, listen to your big sis Anna.
Treat yourself to some loose leaf tea and tonight at
bed time get down * The secret life of bees.*
It's worth it. Believe me.
( and hugs for the never ending revision )

Kess said...

Aw, thanks sis :) I still need to finish 'Out of Africa', but as soon as I'm done with that I will move on to 'The Secret Life of Bees'. Have you seen the movie?

And thanks for the hugs, honey. Always appreciated!