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Tristram Shandy
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Tristram Shandy - 2015 > Discussion - Week One - Tristram Shandy - Vol. I - II, pg. 1 - 111

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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
This discussion covers Volume I – II, pg. 1 – 111

- the old gentleman shook his head, and in a tone more expressive by half of sorrow than reproach, - he said his heart all along foreboded, and he saw it verified in this, and from a thousand other observations he had made upon me, That I should neither think nor act like any other man’s child: - But alas! continued he, shaking his head a second time, and wiping away a tear which was trickling down his cheeks, My Tristram’s misfortunes began nine months before ever he came into the world.
- My mother, who was sitting by, look’d up, - but she knew no more than her backside what my father meant, - but my uncle, Mr. Toby Shandy, who had been often informed of the affair, - understood him very well.
(Volume I, Chapter III)



Can a chance interruption affect a conception and unalterably alter a man’s future life?



To avoid spoilers, please limit your comments to page 1 – 111.


message 2: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 43 comments The remark about the clock is genius, especially since Mr. Shandy gives as his reason for scheduling its winding at the same time as his "family duties" is to get all the dratted jobs done at the same time. This is, hands down, I insist, the funniest book ever written.


message 3: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Elizabeth wrote: "The remark about the clock is genius, especially since Mr. Shandy gives as his reason for scheduling its winding at the same time as his "family duties" is to get all the dratted jobs done at the s..."

Agreed!

This is my first encounter with Sterne and already I can see how many 20th-century writers owe him a debt.


message 4: by Mkfs (new) - added it

Mkfs | 210 comments I am reminded a lot of Augustus Carp, Esq. By Himself Being The Autobiography Of A Really Good Man while reading Tristram. Seems pretty clear that Carp is inspired by this novel.


message 5: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam (synkopenleben) | 1 comments The first few pages were extremely difficult for me. Luckily I'm reading the Florida edition, without all the annotations provided I would surely have been lost.

It is really amazing how post-modern Tristram Shandy is - I recently leaved through The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth for one of my seminars, and the similarities just keep popping up.

For now, I really like the intertextuality and visual aids Sterne hands to the reader. The few chapters on Yorick and his death, shown through the two black pages, really leave me wondering what is left to come. As far as I can see, Tristram Shandy is a jumbled mess - and an utmost pleasure at the same time.


Jonathan | 108 comments I'm finding it quite difficult at the moment but I'm glad I got an OUP copy from the library rather than using the free editions as the OUP version has loads of notes...too many notes really, but with this book I'd rather have more than I need.

I get the sense that Sterne was having tremendous fun writing it. It's very playful; it's just difficult for this reader to understand most of the references, puns etc.

My favourite quote so far (Vol. 1, Ch. XXII) is:
Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;--they are the life, the soul of reading;--take them out of this book for instance,--you might as well take the book along with them;
Ha! Ha! I think this book's appeal will grow as I progress through it.


message 7: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Jonathan wrote: "Ha! Ha! I think this book's appeal will grow as I progress through it..."

Me too!


Jonathan | 108 comments I wonder if we'll find out more about the 'shock' that Toby experienced with widow Wadman? methinks p'raps not :-)


Jonathan | 108 comments One of my favourite books is Beckett's 'Watt'; I can now see the the influence of Tristram Shandy on that work.


Renato (renatomrocha) | 35 comments I just started! I'm really excited about reading this one, although a bit worried about reading it in English (not my first language). I have Google Translator opened all the time to help me with some expressions and unknown words.

I've only read the first 4 chapters, but am already enjoying his humor and his narrative. And the whole idea that the conception effects the individual's life is very interesting and curious! I loved the opening sentence ("I wish either...what they were doing") and also the bit Jim quoted on his first message.

Jonathan, I'm glad we'll be reading this together! :-)


message 11: by Jonathan (last edited Jan 20, 2015 12:39PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jonathan | 108 comments I'm impressed you're reading it in English Renato. Once you get used to 18th C English it's not much different than modern English.
I'm about 20 pages in to Vol2; Toby is very amusing.


Renato (renatomrocha) | 35 comments It's been going ok so far, although a slower read. I had never heard of "by the bye" before.

My edition also has a lot of notes and they've been quite helpful!


Jonathan | 108 comments Yes, I suppose you'll have the added complication of understanding the colloquialisms.


message 14: by Matthew (new) - added it

Matthew | 86 comments I actually received a Nook as a late Xmas gift and am reading an Epub edition but haven't ventured too far. Still, I'm shocked how appropriate this book is on an ereader, given it feels so incredibly modern, even postmodern.

I kept noting digressions as steps backwards from narrator, and steps forwards....since I believe one section catapults to a 23 year old narrator...how wacky...and then:

-In short there is no end of it; -for my own part, i have been at it these six weeks, making all the speed I possibly could,-and am not yet born:

from p26 in my epub


Jonathan | 108 comments Matthew wrote: "I actually received a Nook as a late Xmas gift and am reading an Epub edition but haven't ventured too far. Still, I'm shocked how appropriate this book is on an ereader, given it feels so incredib..."

That's interesting. I downloaded an ebook version but it didn't have any notes or any of the quirky stuff like the black pages, marble pages, illustrations etc. So it just seemed more 'natural' to read it as a real book. Some books are just like that.


message 16: by Matthew (new) - added it

Matthew | 86 comments I have none of those design features either, still, given the prevalnce of seemingly unusual punctuation and amount of digression it still comes off as remarkably modern to me.

I also have a print edition on hold waiting for me at the library. Will have to check out how it differs.

Concerning "by the bye", I seem to recall a passage from Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings where, as a child, she used the phrase "by the way" with her religious mother and she was sternly reprimanded to use "by the by" instead since "by the way" implied the "Way of the Lord" and used vulgarly in normal laguage is taking the Lord's name in vain and she used "by the by" instead. I'm not sure if that's actually the case here, and in TS it's "by the bye" not "by the by" but the usage seems the same.

An odd thing to remember since I haven't read that book since high school over 20 years ago.


message 17: by Mkfs (last edited Jan 21, 2015 09:24AM) (new) - added it

Mkfs | 210 comments I've been reading an ebook edition as well. There are two editions on Gutenberg; one is awful (no typography or images), the other is decent enough, and has most of the extras. I've been using the online HTML version of that edition to double-check the Kindle version.

A print edition would be much better. The Oxford edition looks nice -- but by the time it arrives, I'll probably have finished ;)


message 18: by Matthew (new) - added it

Matthew | 86 comments I just perused my library print copy (the Peguin with the Florida edition was what was available) and realized I've missed half the fun. Mkfs, I'll have to check out some of the other editions on gutenberg since my copy merely had dashes galore. I totally missed and flew by the black page without even being aware it was there.

Although even only 50 pages in I'm aware Tristram's father may not be his acual father. Sterne seems to have lain down some hints to that effect and one wonders if Tristram's digressions are partially rooted around this issue of questioned parentage.

DFW's IJ comes to mind a lot reading this but then IJ recalls LOTS of books all by it's encyclopedic self.


message 19: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Matthew wrote: "I just perused my library print copy (the Peguin with the Florida edition was what was available) and realized I've missed half the fun. Mkfs, I'll have to check out some of the other editions on g..."

This Norton Critical edition has a lot of great extra materials including Sterne's own thoughts on the book and reviews from his contemporaries and modern critics:

Tristram Shandy



DFW's IJ comes to mind a lot reading this but then IJ recalls LOTS of books all by it's encyclopedic self.

Definitely IJ, and also House of Leaves.


I hadn't sensed that Walter is not Tristram's father. I'll have to look closer...


message 20: by Mkfs (last edited Jan 21, 2015 11:27AM) (new) - added it

Mkfs | 210 comments Matthew wrote: "I'll have to check out some of the other editions on gutenberg since my copy merely had dashes galore"

Here is the decent ebook version: Tristram Shandy. The online HTML version has a pretty faithful rendering, though the other version is interesting too.

I had the same feeling about Tristram's father -- at first because the birth came after a long absence of his, and then later because of the rather spiteful Christening arranged by his wife.


Hubbardston Nonesuch (betweencoasts) | 5 comments On the topic of editions, I would highly recommend seeing if yr local library carries the Visual Edition of this book. It basically takes Sterne's typographical shenanigans and modernizes them (folded pages, overtyped text, etc). I also own a regular hardback of the novel and it's fun to compare and see how they've updated things.

Something I've enjoyed about what I've read so far is Sterne's ability to write in what occasionally sounds indecipherable from legalese and seamlessly pepper it with jokes. This is essentially how I try to handle emails at work, a form of smartassery with a long and storied tradition.


message 22: by Mkfs (new) - added it

Mkfs | 210 comments Between Coasts wrote: "On the topic of editions, I would highly recommend seeing if yr local library carries the Visual Edition of this book."

I've long been curious about that edition. I should track down a copy.


Jonathan | 108 comments I found the sermon a bit of a struggle but it may have been because I was trying to read it on the bus. I liked all of the interruptions though and 'Trim's stance' when reading it. I'll probably go back and re-read bits at the weekend.

The OUP version has the original frontispiece by William Hogarth illustrating the sermon at the point where Dr Slop has fallen asleep:
tristram-hogarth01_750px


message 24: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy | 21 comments Renato wrote: "It's been going ok so far, although a slower read. I had never heard of "by the bye" before.

My edition also has a lot of notes and they've been quite helpful!"


Are you reading the Modern Library edition? That's what I am reading.

And it's slow going for me so far, too.


message 25: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Amy wrote: "And it's slow going for me so far, too..."

"Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; - they are the life, the soul of reading; - take them out of this book for instance, - you might as well take the book along with them; - one cold winter would reign in every of it; restore them to the writer; - he steps forth like a bridegroom, - bids All hail; brings in variety, and forbids the appetite to fail."
(Volume I, Chapter XXII)

There are moments when I feel like I'm reading a shaggy dog story - which might be the case here...

I've found myself reluctant to pick up this book, but then, once I'm reading, I'm engaged and enjoying myself. A strange phenomenon. I suppose we just have to strap ourselves in and let Sterne take us where he will...


Renato (renatomrocha) | 35 comments Amy wrote: "Are you reading the Modern Library edition? That's what I am reading.

And it's slow going for me so far, too."


I'm reading the Penguin version, but I was able to track down an affordable translation - which I hear is very good - so I should resume my reading next week and play catch up with you guys. While I think I was understanding everything, it was really slowing me down read having to check out a bunch of words and expressions per page on Google...


message 27: by Mkfs (new) - added it

Mkfs | 210 comments I'm a third of the way through this book, and I despair of seeing Tristram born before I finish it.


message 28: by Matthew (new) - added it

Matthew | 86 comments I'm a big fan of Norton Critical Editions, Jim, and will check it out if I'm tempted to purchase it when things become less transient in my life. The Peguin edition works for now, although sometimes I feel the endnotes are almost distracting from my reading. Distractions from digressions? Hmm...

That is an odd phenomenon you describe though, didn't you feel similarly about Gass' Middle C? It was fun while reading but not upon recollection of it? (I too felt a little at odds after putting it down...even though it certainly has merit) Also, on first diving into this book, on my Nook, I couldn't help recall Middle C's own dashes.

One of the things about novels and fictions is that they take us out of ourselves but only until we close the book. In some ways it makes me recall The Entertainment from Infinite Jest (subtitled "A Failed Entertainment") in the novel.

Renato, don't feel too bad. I feel pretty well read but some things do go over my head in TS. I'm actually a bit behind in the reading myself.

Still, the digressions almost add a character to the novel that would not be the case if it were straightforward. Or as Tristram puts it, and Jim quotes above, "take them out of this book for instance, - you might as well take the book along with them"


Zadignose | 444 comments Jim wrote: "There are moments when I feel like I'm reading a shaggy dog story - which might be the case here..."

It's hard to imagine today what it might have been like to read this when it was serialized. I believe "shaggy dog story" has often been used to describe it.


message 30: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy | 21 comments Renato wrote: "Amy wrote: "Are you reading the Modern Library edition? That's what I am reading.

And it's slow going for me so far, too."

I'm reading the Penguin version, but I was able to track down an afforda..."


With me, it's getting used to the language; I haven't read much 18th century literature. If this were being written in late 20th-century speak, I'm sure I'd be having an easier time of it.


Hubbardston Nonesuch (betweencoasts) | 5 comments Vol 1, Chap XXIV : "A man and his HOBBY-HORSE..."

Did I just witness the inspiration for one of my favorite novels, The Third Policeman?!


message 32: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Between Coasts wrote: "Vol 1, Chap XXIV : "A man and his HOBBY-HORSE..."

Did I just witness the inspiration for one of my favorite novels, The Third Policeman?!"


I think you did... I've been thinking about O'Brien as I've been reading.


Jonathan | 108 comments I've been thinking of Beckett as I read, especially his early novels.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) I see from above you'all are thinking of Beckett, O'Brien, etc.

I live in a senior park and to speak truth ---- reading this book is like listening to conversations at one of our senior holiday parties at the park's activity center. Surprisingly, despite that most of us (not me) watch Fox News 24/7, instead of studying and quoting ancient Greek and Roman and Christian literature, science and philosophy, the basic subjects under discussion by Uncle Toby and dad Walter, and the various walk-ons, do not seem at all different from the billiard game of conversations that I confusedly try to participate in whenever I attend these events. Even the tone of the conversations is the same, included the demented detours of associations.

By the way, most of these seniors are impaired with some dementia, and most did not graduate from high school because of the Great Depression. But obviously, the curiosity and wanderings of the human mind abide, and in the same areas of thinking, in the same manner of conversation (if not language) with the same questions and conclusions, and differences of opinion, no matter the century, no matter the education level, in the Western world.

One more observation - most of them HATE satire, and do not understand it.


message 35: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 43 comments Interesting observation re satire; I think you're right, too. That generation (only one up from mine!) grew up in serious times. The Great Depression was Serious; WW II was Serious. And serious goes with satire about as well as maraschino cherries with celery.


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