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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 7 May 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; New edition edition (7 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192834703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192834706
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,193,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Naxos audiobooks has just released an unabridged version, read by Anton Lesser with humour and brio. Lesser's light tenor is perfectly suited to the many roles (Parson Yorick, Doctor Slop, et al) who crowd Sterne's narrative. This translates into 15 CDs and about 19 hours of listening. Perfect for a wet summer. --Robert McCrum, The Observer <br/> This extraordinary novel - precursor of post-modernism by 250 years - would be an unwieldy beast in unabridged form: its 19 hours of whim and wit would be indigestible, if swallowed whole. But at a gentle pace it makes a lovely listen, as Anton Lesser brings characters and situations to life in infectiously unbuttoned style. Massive books like Sterne's don't fit modern lifestyles, but this massive audio-book may well fit in very well. --Betty Tadman, The Scotsman

As a general rule I go along with the advice that if a book doesn't grab you by the end of chapter 4, don't waste your time, there are plenty more. Yes, but not like Tristram Shandy. Nothing I've ever come across is like Sterne's extraordinary comic tour de force published 250 years ago which, I freely admit, I found pretty hard going a long way past chapter 4. And then, suddenly, I got it. Or at least I realised I was coming at it from the wrong direction. It isn't a novel. It has no plot. Chapters break off in mid-sentence because, advises the narrator, 'I would not give a groat for that man's knowledge in pen-craft who does not understand this: That the best plain narrative in the world, tacked very close to the last spirited apostrophe to my Uncle Toby, would have felt both cold and vapid upon the reader's palate; therefore I forthwith put an end to the chapter, though I was in the middle of my story.' And which story might that have been? The one about Uncle Toby's dalliance with the widow Wadman? Or his manservant Corporal Trim's tireless reconstructions of Flanders campaigns, complete with battering rams and catapults on the bowling green behind the vegetable garden? Or of Dr Slop, summoned to assist at the narrator's birth, being thrown from his horse and ... Enough. If you've ever sat spellbound listening to a witty, satirical, outrageous, digressive raconteur regaling you with endless stories about preposterous characters that lead nowhere but keep you hanging on every word, trust me they learned their craft from Sterne. So did postmodernists such as James Joyce and Flann O'Brien. It is tailor-made for audio, as is Anton Lesser's reading intelligent, humorous, charming. Dr Johnson admired the book enormously, but opined that 'nothing odd will do long'. For once he was wrong. Tristram Shandy is decidedly odd and extremely long, but it has stayed the course. --Sue Arnold, The Guardian

When I'm in London during the summer, I don't have the car. This is liberating to an extent, but does mean that I can't listen to Tristram Shandy. I bought the unabridged 15-CD set at the best possible place Shandy Hall, Laurence Sterne's home at Coxwold, in Yorkshire. On visiting, I became uncomfortably aware that I'd never managed to get through any Sterne. Anton Lesser reads Tristram to perfection. By the time I'd driven back to Ramsgate the next day, I had heard 10 CDs, but what about the remainder? My ears are the wrong shape for an iPod; the little earphones fall out. I can't expect the family to share Sterne in the car. Besides, is he suitable for children? Eventually, they may take to him more quickly than me always going off at a tangent, with no obvious beginning, middle and end, Tristram should appeal to the internet generation. --Clive Aslet, Town Mouse Country Life --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Ian Campbell Ross is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at Trinity College Dublin.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Comic
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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Format: Paperback
At a cursory glance, Sterne's book appears to be a novel in the traditional sense; an in-depth character study of a central protagonist. A closer look reveals the title to be the first of many traps laid to ambush the unwary reader; this exuberant comedy is a far-cry from the orderly prescriptive narratives of contemporary novels. An eccentric oddity and a masterful challenge to the expectations of its readers, Tristram Shandy is a shrewd exposition of the limitations of the novel, a form still very much in its infancy in Sterne's lifetime. Misleadingly entitled Life and Opinions, the story scarcely progresses beyond the superbly hectic first day of Tristram's life. Instead we are presented with a multiplication of beginnings until the entire book appears to be nothing more than an introductory prologue to an unattainable and continuously deferred book called Life and Opinions. The reader happily renounces himself to Sterne's method of riddle and bafflement as he navigates this cock and bull story where bawdy anecdotes are told out of order, memories are cut-off and fragmentary, and the suggestion of a single word causes page after page of absurd digression. Experience of the perceptible world resists being written and the profusion of typographical blanks, expletives, chaotic stage-business, and innuendo continually hint at what is not being said. However Sterne's gallery of eccentrics is made real through the charming characterisations of Uncle Toby, Dr Slop, and the Widow Wadman. An incredible book with an un-credible tale at its centre, Tristram Shandy is the best example in the canon of textual trickery and self-consciousness before the form's more lasting re-emergence in the 20th century. Innovative and amazingly modern in outlook, Sterne's masterpiece will be enjoyed by any reader who dares to delve into this riotous and entertaining tale.
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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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Format: Paperback
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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