THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF TRISTRAM SHANDY, GENT. (1759-1767) by Laurence Sterne
MY REVIEW (CONTINUED FROM HERE) TAKES PLACE IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ EACH SECTION:-
Chapters I – VIII
Walter Shandy, Tristram’s Dad, is speculating on the hardships and pains that life brings and what one can do to counteract them. Uncle Toby offers the love of God as that recompense, or words to that effect, but Walter responds to Toby by saying that his argument about God and religion merely cuts the knot and does not untie it. I know exactly what Walter means by that otherwise oblique statement.
Now that Tristram seems to be alive, just this minute born about halfway through his eponymous book that he is narrating about his own life, future time seems to be racing ahead of the timeline of the novel, moving far faster than he, Tristram, is able to keep up with the narration of his own life! Except that we realise that he is not called Tristram yet! Walter wants to counteract the evil of life, particularly what has been done to his son’s nose by SLOP’s forceps, and states, to this end, that he is going to give his son the greatest good of all by ‘christening’ him TRISMEGISTUS.
Chapters IX – XV
I was blackening in the face and they needed to christen me quick as I looked as if I would die first, and Susannah couldn’t carry the whole of the name TRISMEGISTUS in her head… You get the picture. Rounded with a description of sleep, a long endless sleep, I hope. But I fear I wrote this book, sleep and all. A logical ligottus. A real-time review, indeed.
Chapters XVI – XXVII
I think Sterne was the first exponent of automatic writing, long before Andre Breton, and this hot potato of a ROASTED CHESTNUT of mine may radiate all manner of jeering laughter, I guess, from the world of respectable literary criticism. Anyway, with one chapter literally ripped out by Tristram as part of this process, I am left with the impression of an attempt at retrocausality regarding the mis-christening of our narrator, a narrator who may have claimed the intention to make us laugh with such mechanics of absurdity and farce, but has effectively redoubled the pain and sorrow by contrast with what he intended to make us laugh. The NOSE and the NAME in exponential synergy of life’s grief, while one on its own would have lasted a while but shrivelled without the exponentiality of the other. Reading between the lines, or between the chapters, this seems to be what we absorb osmotically from the text that resides on both sides of any gaps. And still Tristram manipulates time as a sort of punishment not only of Sterne or of Walter or of himself as narrator, a punishment for being allowed to be born, but also a punishment of us, the once groomed readers!
Chapters XXVIII – XXXII
“‘Tis a ground and principle in the law, said Triptolemus, that things do not ascend, but descend in it; and I make no doubt ’tis for this cause, that however true it is, that the child may be of the blood and seed of its parents—that the parents, nevertheless, are not of the blood and seed of it; inasmuch as the parents are not begot by the child, but the child by the parents—”
“The young gentleman, replied Yorick, whom Selden speaks of—who not only thought of it, but justified his intention to his father by the argument drawn from the law of retaliation.—’You laid, Sir, with my mother,’ said the lad—’why may not I lay with yours?’—”
“What is the life of man! Is it not to shift from side to side?—from sorrow to sorrow?—to button up one cause of vexation—and unbutton another?”
And so, in the next book, we are promised the start of the narrator’s LIFE AND OPINIONS proper, of whiskers and buttonholes ‘and which is the right and which the wrong end of a woman’…? “…and lay open a story to the world you little dream of.”
This review will now continue in the comment stream here: http://conezero.wordpress.com/nose-zero-tristram-shandy/
The links to the eight parts of the Tristram Shandy real-time review:
https://nemonymous123456.wordpress.com/632-2/ (this one)
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