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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  12,673 ratings  ·  720 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 1759)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Renato Magalhães Rocha
I failed big time in reviewing this.
Oh well.
I tried mentioning Sterne's style and his humor. I tried to include some of my favorite quotes and even show one of the cool drawings included. And I tried stating how much I loved it.
However, when I finished and read it, it didn't do the book any justice at all.
So all that's left for me to do is tell you to go read it.

Rating: 5 stars

This is one of those books we encounter in life that, despite being completely enchanted and raptured chapter after chap
...more
Paul Bryant

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 here
...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 Klappenskoff
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
Dec 27, 2014 Tony rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tony by: Fionnuala
Shelves: irish, top-10-2014
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
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
Teresa
Há livros que me fazem sentir tão burra!
Este é um desses. Não percebo o que há para gostar e juro que me esforcei: aturei sermões, excomunhões, narizes grandes, castanhas quentes, cavalos-de-pau,...uma cegarrega!
O Tristram Shandy parece-me aquelas pessoas que para contarem que na véspera jantaram peixe frito, contam a história do filho da prima da vizinha, que namora com a amante do chefe da cunhada da padeira que está grávida de trigémeos que vão nascer, de cesariana no Natal do próximo ano, e
...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
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
aPriL does feral sometimes



'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy' is a fictional memoir of sorts, but the novel is written in a manner to subvert the formal conventions of the novel (a proto-post-modern genre), and along the way, assert the role of the author as a Maximus Prime Writer, or in other words, someone in complete control of your television set. It is all in good fun, a wonderful satire that aims for lowbrow comedy by using every single aspect of the highbrow educated culture of 1760. To mention some example
...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
Ben
I’ve got but 20,000 characters with which to express my thoughts on Laurence Sterne’s digressive-heavy masterpiece The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, so I must make sure to add no digressions of my own on the subjects of buttonholes, pishes, knots or anything else. Though a digression on digressions might be warranted it too must be avoided. While a space consisting of 20,000 characters may seem ample for reviewing a work, its shortcomings surely become quite evident when one c ...more
Lotz
Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last.
—Samuel Johnson

I wonder if Laurence Sterne, duty bound as he was, him being the author, or at the least the transcriber of this tale—as sometimes stories seem to come from some higher power, and we merely jot them down—I wonder, I say, if he had duly considered what he was about when he birthed this work from his brain;—whether he well understood how much depended on the doing, as there is after all no telling how many people will come to r
...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.
Vit Babenco
So many great discoveries were made absolutely unintentionally.
Christopher Columbus was sailing to India and unexpectedly discovered America without any slightest suspicions.
Laurence Sterne was writing some obscure petty biography and unawarely discovered postmodern.
But the most weird and paradoxical thing about it is that he discovered postmodernism long before the modernists managed to discover modernism.
“It had ever been the custom of the family, and by length of time was almost become a matt
...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
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.
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
Alex
"Read, read, read, read, my unlearned reader! Read...for without much reading, by which, your reverence knows, I mean much knowledge, you will no more be able to penetrate the meaning of my next marbled page (motly emblem of my work!) than the world with all its sagacity has been able to unravel the many opinions, transactions and truths which still lie mystically hid under the dark veil of the black one." (III.35)

There's the most-quoted bit from Tristram Shandy, which is full of references to o
...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 The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy -Vol I A Sentimental Journey with the Journal to Eliza and a Political Romance

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