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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  10,819 ratings  ·  646 reviews
Laurence Sterne's great masterpiece of bawdy humour and rich satire defies any attempt to categorize it. Part novel, part digression, its gloriously disordered narrative interweaves the birth and life of the unfortunate "hero" Tristram Shandy, the eccentric philosophy of his father Walter, the amours and military obsessions of Uncle Toby, and a host of other characters, in ...more
Paperback, 588 pages
Published May 27th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1767)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul
Jul 04, 2014 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels

I would like to dedicate the following old review to a much missed GR friend, Bird Brian, who appears as a character in my review. He provided us with many hours of free entertainment with his great rants against every possible aspect of capitalism and the American government. But 50% of him left when Amazon bought GR, and the rest of him disappeared when the censorship controversy splurged all over our heads. And now he is not here to excoriate all the bad people and discover all the conspiraci
...more
Fionnuala
Reviewed in February, 2014

Before I began this book------
Now don’t climb on your hobby-horse, or rather, don’t pounce on your keyboard to tell me that I didn’t actually begin this book, that it was Laurence Sterne who began this book more than two hundred and fifty years ago, long before I was even a ✳ in my mothers’s eye or an answering ❅ in my father’s------

So, before I began reading this book, like many amongst you, I had preconceived ideas---
Yes, it is worth paying attention to the wording he
...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
The Shandian Spawn

“If on a friend’s bookshelf
You cannot find Joyce or Sterne
Cervantes, Rabelais, or Burton,

“[Gaddis or Gass, Pynchon or McElroy,
David Foster Wallace, William T Vollmann,
Alexander Theroux or Gilbert Sorrentino,]

“You are in danger, face the fact,
So kick him first or punch him hard
And from him hide behind a curtain.”
― Alexander Theroux [Ergänzung von "N.R."]

Do I really have to say that again?

But, so, let’s look at what Steven Moore claims to be the stream of spawn flowing f
...more
Ian Heidin[+]Fisch
Dedication

This was a re-read of a novel that I first read when I was about 14 and that has stayed fresh in my mind ever since.

It was recommended to me by my cricket coach and favourite teacher, John Carr, who taught me English for five years and cemented my passion for Literature in the early 70’s. His Master’s Thesis was on Evelyn Waugh’s "Sword of Honour” Trilogy (which I’ve also read and plan to re-read).

I was amused to learn from Steven Moore that one John Carr rushed out a fake version of
...more
James
Everywhere I seek I now see Shandy. In my eyes, my ears, my mouth as I cry his name in the unfixed ecstasy of sleepless sleep. All the ballyhoo about subversion need not negate that this truly is a collection of opinions to warm one’s life by like a friendly flicking fire. It is a book of secret thrills and shameless life. I finished it during my last hotel nightshift,—maybe not ever, I do not know—the job I’ve held since January of 2011. It is departure about which I am conflicted. I started an ...more
MJ Nicholls
This edition from Visual Editions expands upon, or at least emphasises, the typographical fancies Sterne deployed for his maddening nine-book digressive epic. Combining black and red font effects (all the dashes and chapter titles are in red), with unique artistic stunts (the infamous black page is replaced by a strikethrough design, various font frolics are exaggerated in amusing ways, and one page includes a ‘moisture’ effect using semi-laminate bubbles over the text), the book isn’t perhaps a ...more
Tony
Aug 13, 2014 Tony rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tony by: Fionnuala
Shelves: irish
May it please your honours, and you, Madam, who certainly inspired the reading if not the reviewing of this book with your own * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *; as I tend not to dabble in the 18th Century. This seminal tale, waxing autobiographical, takes three of the nine volumes at play before our narrator is coaxed out and erroneously christened. My own arrival was unremarkable----if somewhat delayed; My mother, prone to superstition and intuitive causalit ...more
ba
To be honest, I never heard of this book before the film came out last year. My wife heard an NPR report on the film, and they used the terms Post-Modern and Unfilmable so many times that she knew I would be interested. We saw the film and liked it. I finally picked upthe book and read it, expecting a challenging work that would yield some intellectual dividends if I could just plow through it somehow. In actuality, the book was a very fun read. It did indeed have the foreshadowings of postmoder ...more
Melissa Rudder
I am shocked at the drastic change of my opinion on The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. After I read it a mere three years ago, I swore I would take my MA Exam without rereading it to avoid undergoing such torture a second time. I gave it one star on goodreads. Having forgotten everything about the novel (aside from my distaste for it), I had to reread it for the exam. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wrote "ha!" in the margins more than I have in any other book. I laughed ...more
Darwin8u
A POEM IN WHICH IS A CELEBRATION BY NEGATION
or, a repartee on jeopardy.

If on a friend’s bookshelf
You cannot find Joyce or Sterne
Cervantes, Rabelais, or Burton,

You are in danger, face the fact,
So kick him first or punch him hard
And from him hide behind a curtain.
― Alexander Theroux*

I was (of course) destined to love this book. Just look at my love for/on Montaigne, Cervantes & Burton. J'adore big books full of absurdity and digressions and allusions. This is the ... THE ... grand-pappa of th
...more
David Lentz
There is so much in this novel one hardly knows where to begin, which is Sterne's hilarious problem for the first 300 pages or so. Tristram Shandy is a comic masterpiece, like Fielding's Tom Jones, which arose barely after the invention of the genre. Even Sterne's name almost seems a play on words and it's easy to see why great minds who followed Sterne like Nietzsche (Note "The Ass Festival" in Zarathustra), Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), James Joyce (Ulysses) and J.P. Donleavy (Darcy Danc ...more
Bruce
To describe this late 18th century novel as being characterized by constant digressions, as is often done (and even by Sterne himself), is probably inaccurate, since to digress implies that one has an ultimate goal in mind from which one is recurrently sidetracked. Sterne’s narrative has no particular goal from which to digress, his interest being more in following his mind and its associations wherever they may lead him. In that sense, his mind is like the minds of all of us, and we are invited ...more
Ted
4 1/2. I can't quite up this to a 5 since by my criteria I'd have to believe I might read it a second time, and I don't think that's likely, more because of the length than anything else. It is a very impressive piece of literature, and extremely funny in many, many parts. Hopefully I will write a more illuminating review at some point.

I started reading it as an e-book, and persevered through Volume V chapter III, almost half way. At that point I bought a used copy of the Oxford World's Classics
...more
Ursula
I've wrestled with what to write about Tristram Shandy since I finished it. It isn't a book you can sum up very well, and the most entertaining bits of it are best found on your own, I think.

So I'll just say this: it's not as hard to read as you might think. The language takes some getting used to, and I read it at a pace of 20-30 pages a day. But you do acclimate to it and get into a rhythm. And yes, it's full of digressions and stories within stories and soliloquies about battles and fortifica
...more
Denise
Whew! Bottomless pits, all-you-can-eat buffets, neverending story, Ah! That's the one I was looking for. What a great big bunch of hooey! Reading it reminded me of cramming for tests in college. Staying up all night, drinking two or three pots of coffee, trying to retain consciousness and all the while jittering so bad inside and being sick to your stomach.

I wanted to read the book after seeing the film "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story." It was so bizarre that I just had to read the book
...more
Kyle Muntz
In context, this is probably the most revolutionary book ever written. (Though, like usual when it comes to history, I think Sterne meant something very different by the techniques he used here than we perceive today.) It's immensely difficult--I can't remember the last time I struggled this much with a book, mainly because of the 18th century mechanics. The book is profound, wide-ranging, and very funny; and also, unlike all the other 18th century fiction, it seems progressive ideologically, in ...more
Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
Unerringly digressive, intermittently baffling, invariably hilarious, absolutely fabulous.
Jeremy
I wanted to like this, I really did. Sterne is a hugely inventive, hugely capable writer. Maybe he doesn't go in for the batshit linguistic free-for-all that people like James Joyce do, but he is every bit as bizarre and technically innovative. You could recognize one of his wildly digressive, over-mannered sentences in a heartbeat. But I still couldn't stand Tristam Shandy. Not because it's 'bad' per se, (parts of it are extremely engaging and genuinely funny in a way that basically no writing ...more
Nicole
Apr 08, 2007 Nicole rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: self-loving rhetorical theorists
The fundamental failing of Tristram Shandy is exactly what makes it great literature. It attempts to reflect the chaotic nature of art and the impossibility of controlling it, much in the same way "life" cannot be controlled (as art mirrors life, blah blah). To do so, however, Sterne uses constant diversions from his main storyline; this wouldn't be a problem if the diversions weren't SO DAMN BORING. I appreciated what he's trying to do after seeing the 2006 film adaptation with Rob Brydon and S ...more
Jeremy
Many English novels are essential. Shandy is essentialer. Sterne's con/cocted a great game for anyone able and willing to pick up a book and be fucked with. All postmodernistness is alpha-omega'ed here, plain and simple. I recommend drawing in the margins and/or writing between the lines.
Amanda
Apr 18, 2007 Amanda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Only the hardcore literates
Each time I read this novel (and yes, I have slogged through it more than once) I am struck by the brilliance of Sterne. Many have recognized his writing as far before its time and indeed a great deal of the novel focuses on the purpose of language and literature and Sterne uses black pages, marbled pages, and squiggly lines to show how words sometimes cannot explain what you need to explain.
Additionally, the novel is Tristram's attempt to tell his life story while still living his life, a fact
...more
Hugo Emanuel
OPINIÃO DE HUGO MELO, PLEBEU, SOBRE “TRISTRAM SHANDY” OU “A VIDA E OPINIÕES DE TRISTRAM SHANDY, CAVALHEIRO” ESCRITO POR LAURENCE STERNE EM 10 PONTOS

1."Tristram Shandy" – cujo título completo é "The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentlemen" – exaspera e confunde. Trata-se de uma obra digressiva, indisciplinada, pretensiosa e sem uma trama (pelo menos não no sentido tradicional da palavra) cujo protagonista, autor ficcional da obra em questão – que por sua vez é escrita “in veritum” por Laur
...more
Alan
Sterne invented a certain kind of modernity--the sexually allusive, apparently offhand, discontinuous, immediate....His prose, often written
under the burden of tuberculosis, and even the despair of his wife, achieves an appearance that is genial and carefree. Uncle Toby is one of the great characters in English fiction.
Sterne confesses that the more he writes, the further behind in the story he gets. A wonderful concept, and true for an expansive mind like his.
One can think of others for whom
...more
Harold Griffin
I am so far removed from literature courses and literary theory that I lack words to describe the narrative structure of this book, which is simultaneously wonderful and frustrating.

A modern reader who is looking for a simple-page turner (and who wonders why Moby Dick is thought to be a great book) will most likely detest this masterwork. The actual events of the book -- the unfortunate accidents that surround the birth and early life of young Tristram Shandy -- could be compressed into a clea
...more
Bev Hankins
May 24, 2011 Bev Hankins added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes stream of consciousness
Recommended to Bev by: Richard Nash
Pardon me a moment while I do a little victory dance...I'm done with Tristram Shandy!!!!!!!

OMG. Was there ever such a book? I am pleased as all get out that I can say that I'm done with the thing. It's behind me and I'll never be tempted to pick it up again.

What is Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne about you might ask--and well you might and maybe if you ever read it you might figure it out better than I; because I, well, I got all distracted by the INCREDIBLY long sentences and odd punctuation
...more
Jan-Maat
A post modern book written before modernism was even a twinkle in the Widow's eye.

I'm tempted to say the entire book is a digression, truer prehaps to say that it is an exercise in the art of digression for comic effect.

Tristram Shandy attempts to tell the story of his life and opinions but almost everything from buttons to noses requires further explanation and chapters of their own, so the book progresses like one of those 18th century sieges that Corporal Trim and Tristram's uncle are so bu
...more
Amber
This novel was ended before it was done. And it was ended when it was supposed to be done. I love that! Shandy said he would publish two volumes every year until he died, and he did almost that.

People asked me the other day why I was reading something I found so hard. My response was that it was filled with dirty jokes. Which it is, but besides that, it's a work of art.

I'm at a loss for words.
Rebecca
This is the Seinfeld of classic literature.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. The conceit is incredibly modern (or perhaps post-modern--I feel like if someone did this today, the critics would fawn all over him/her, which is kind of ridiculous given that this book's over 250 years old). Many of the lines are genuinely funny. Sterne is exceedingly clever (and knows it).

However, the fact that I was literally unable to read this book unless I was standing without falling asleep I think indic
...more
Alan
May 22, 2012 Alan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Diggers of antiquity and tilters at verbal windmills
Recommended to Alan by: The latter-day film of this unfilmable book
This enormous, sprawling, exuberant proto-novel is all the more amazing for having been written and first published more than two centuries ago—Tristram Shandy is older than the United States, in fact, by a small but significant margin, and some might say it's holding up rather better. I was introduced to Laurence Sterne's novel via the film of this unfilmable book—Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005)—which, despite some significant flaws, turns out to be a fairly good introduction. The ...more
Guido
Non mi divertivo così da chissà quanto tempo; leggevo Sterne e ridevo come non ricordavo di saper fare. Si dice spesso dei classici del passato che, nonostante gli anni, sembrano ancora molto moderni: be', questo è davvero moderno, nel senso che forse alcuni degli espedienti che rendono questo libro così unico sembrerebbero ancora, a un lettore di oggi, innovativi e folli.

Non aspettatevi di imparare nulla sulla vita e le opinioni del gentiluomo in questione: l'impostazione autobiografica non è c
...more
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Laurence Sterne was an Irish-born English novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics. Sterne died in London after years of fighting consumption.
See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La
...more
More about Laurence Sterne...
A Sentimental Journey Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey (Modern Library) A Sentimental Journey and Other Writings Tristram Shandy A Sentimental Journey with the Journal to Eliza and a Political Romance

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“I begin with writing the first
sentence—and trusting to Almighty
God for the second.”
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“Human nature is the same in all professions.” 21 likes
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