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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman: Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Penguin Classics) [Mass Market Paperback]

Laurence Sterne , Melvyn New , Joan New
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Nov 1997 Penguin Classics
A comic masterpiece -- bawdy, profane, irreverent, brazenly illogical -- and one of the most entertaining and original works in English literature

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy is a brilliant pastiche of character sketches, obscene and hilarious vignettes, parodies of scholarly treatises on theology, art, and science, comments to the reader, blank pages, playful typography and graphics, narrative threads that appear, disappear, and reappear at whim, and incidents and images that relate, at one and the same time, to the characters and to the novel itself. The technical audacity and stylistic virtuosity Sterne brought to this eccentric fiction about fiction-writing redefined the form and scope of the novel forever. Both James Joyce and Thomas Mann acknowledged their debt to The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, and its influence is apparent in the works of Salman Rushdie, Carlos Fuentes, and other contemporary novelists. The text and notes in this edition are taken from the acclaimed (and definitive) Florida Edition of The Works of Laurence Sterne.

Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (27 Nov 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140435050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140435054
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,063,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A lot of nonsense is written about Laurence Sterne's "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" -- and that's just as well. It would be depressing in the extreme if this triumphant tangling up of the threads of reason with the strands of linear narrative were to admit of any effective unravelling; which is as much to say, that were you to find yourself picking apart a lucid, non-discursive exposition of the novel - its themes, its techniques, its plot -- you would know that you had finally gone mad." --Will Self --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ian Campbell Ross is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at Trinity College Dublin. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The fragmentary structure of _TS_ is ideally suited to Rowson's comic-book reinterpretation. This accomplished editorial cartoonist pokes fun at 'heritage' illustration and costume drama, instead matching Sterne's words with his lively images and contemporary, knowing commentary. Though he shows an affectionate regard for the original, Rowson is not afraid to bring to his own work a brand of mockery not far from Sterne's.
In comparison with John Baldessari's recent photo-collages illustrating the same novel, Rowson is much funnier, more accessible, and more faithful to the original.
A very funny, very successful re-interpretation of this sometimes difficult classic. Rotund Walter Shandy is a particulary appealing figure.
Contains some (justified) obscenity.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Hard Work (But Very Funny Too) 31 Oct 2012
Probably the funniest book ever written in the English language this is also one of the most difficult books to read that I have ever come across - I had real trouble taking in more than a dozen pages at a time.

It's taken me weeks and weeks to get to the end of this book, partly because it demands of the reader a knowledge of Greek and Latin texts, 18th century manners and military methods, the church and it's rituals, contemporary European politics and a familiarity with bawdy language of the period. However it's also because this is essentially a gigantic shaggy dog story that is set up as a series of Russian dolls, with one episode looping into another and another and another before looping back again to pick up the pieces. The combination of this writing style and the necessity to follow the cultural and political references makes this an insomniac's dream. I had real trouble staying awake after more than a dozen pages. And that's a rather sad thing because Sterne is brilliantly funny and amazingly inventive. He's not just knockabout vulgar, he sets up slapstick moments, he has farce, wordplay, absurdity, sly humour and custard pie in the face humour. And this is an amazingly freewheeling book, he uses drawings, page layouts, the conventions of chapter and sentence layouts all to brilliant effect in creating comedy and shining a light on his characters.

And what a cast of characters Sterne has put together. Not, funnily enough, including Tristram Shandy himself, at least for most of the book. The action centres on Tristram's father and uncle Toby. Toby is ex military and recreates European contemporary battles in the back garden with the help of Corporal Trim. The Widow Wadham is chasing Toby and her servant is chasing Trim.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The funniest book ever written 29 Aug 2003
The augustan enlightenment period of English literature is one of my least favourite; I do not enjoy Dr Johnson, Thomas Gray, and Defoe isn't a great novelist. Which is why I was so surprised by this 'novel', bursting at the seams with a restless comic energy - and it was written by a clergyman! This is the bawdiest of the bawdy, but not low brow in any way. Sterne reinvents the novel as a sea of possibilities, exploiting even the forms limitations. He is a master of illusion, and constantly mocks the reader in good spirit, playing with time scales and propriety. Anybody who likes Swift will be knocked out by this; Sterne outdoes the master of satire at every turn.
The central irony of the novel is that the narrator is meant to tell us his life story, but does not even get born until the fourth volume, as he digresses further and further from the starting point of his conception. This novel embodies the creative process, and is most probably the most creatively 'free' work ever written. Sterne destroys all preconceptions, and sets limits only where he can go no further.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great value for its sheer scholarly copiousness! 13 Jun 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
What Laurence Sterne has given us in 'Tristram Shandy' is a landmark piece of prose writing, and what Penguin have done is to re-package that in an edition of equal status. The text follows the established 'Florida' edition of Sterne's work, and the editor Melvin New is right to acknowledge the scholarly importance of Christopher Ricks introduction to the previous Penguin edition, hence it is reprinted here along with New's up to date and equally copious editor's introduction. Thus we have two critical essays by major scholars covering much of what has been written and said about 'Tristram Shandy' for the last 50 years or so. Add to that a glossary and over a hundred pages of notes and annotations to clarify the text's obscurities and references and you've already got more than your money's worth before you've got to the text proper. And what a text too. It isn't by any means to everyone's taste, and some may think it a complete waste of six hundred-odd pages, but herein lies its charm. Yes, it doesn't really get anywhere, and yes it does do odd things like printing squiggly lines and black pages, but it is just this breaking of convention and questioning of novel writing that gives it its power - and humour. It has long been established that what Postmodern authors have been praised for in the last 30 years or so Sterne was doing in the 1760s. And here it is displayed with such exuberance and wit. This is a very funny book, even now, over 300 years later, and it is easy to see how it caused such a stir in a society which was rapidly becoming affected and prudish, with its sexual innuendo. A must for scholars and lovers of Eighteenth Century writing, humour and curiosities. Incredible value and not to be missed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars take this to read in your coffin -- you need the time
as we were extras in the film, a must buy, but this book takes a lot of following.... a sharp knifed edit to a third length would help enourmously for 21st century readers. Read more
Published 1 month ago by brian osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars An extremely humorous must-read
I really loved this book! It had me laughing out loud (a rare quality in a book for me!) and marvelling at the wonderfully handled metatexuality, which is the order of the day... Read more
Published 1 month ago by CoffeeandCake
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, Great Rendition
I consider this Very expensive for a dozen plus plastic discs, but I also consider this book to be one of the best ever written, and this reading of it is superb. Read more
Published 2 months ago by David R. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by peter wallbridge
5.0 out of 5 stars Cock and Bull
What is there to say about Tristrma Shandy? A pioneering novel and one of the first? Hilarious? Anarchic but intellectual? Or any other well-worn phrases? Read more
Published 2 months ago by Brian Last
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much to get into
I couldn't get into this book. It is true that it keeps going and does'nt reach any point. It goes on and on and I don't know what for. Maybe it's just too intellectual for me.
Published 6 months ago by Alison
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply classic
Little I can add to the reams of analysis and appreciation of Sterne's masterpiece always, one should celebrate the Everyman Library.... Read more
Published 6 months ago by MCP
5.0 out of 5 stars Odd
Altogether one of the oddest books I have read but all the better for that.

Some of it made me laugh out loud and some of it left me bemused but no-one with a love of... Read more
Published 8 months ago by lotus49
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest English novel?
This book won't be to everyone's tastes (if you like a good, straightforward narrative look elsewhere), but this is a post-modern deconstruction of the novel written before the... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Matthew Wheeler
4.0 out of 5 stars about this purchase that i made
I cannot say much as i made this on behalf of a friend but she did not say anything , so I dont know if she is pleased or notu
Published 12 months ago by Rosalind Spencer
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