Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
Deservedly A Classic
on 11 July 2016
This is Laurence Sterne’s most famous work but let us not forget that apart from this he also published other works and was influential on other styles of writing. This book became a success not only in this country but throughout Europe, and influenced many an author, but alas in this country today at least a lot of this has waned, with people disliking this book. What are the main points of the tale have not aged, but of course unlike the original readers people today don’t realise where something mentioned is satirising what we would call scientific knowledge and how things change as more information comes to light. On top of that there are a lot of literary references here to other books and authors, including even Shakespeare and Rabelais.
Called a Postmodern novel before the term had even been coined, ultimately this is a story that goes nowhere; it is as the film that was eventually made of this was called, a cock and bull story. Or you can say this is a shaggy dog tale. This also highlights the limitations of writing, as we can see here quite clearly the person who is writing this is trying to write an autobiography, but when writing about your life, where do you start? To write about your own life you have to decide whether you start with being conceived, being born, or at a later stage, and you can never finish a full account if you want to take in your life as you would need to be able to carry on writing after you have deceased. That in itself can be quite amusing as you look around and see every year the latest ‘star’ putting out their own books when they haven’t yet really even lived. Sterne goes off on to separate issues and digresses from the main tale, which is intentional but shows up also what happens if something isn’t properly thought out or edited. We also have some bawdiness here and double entendres, which didn’t go down too well some generations later, due to Victorian values, where such things were not mentioned and kept out of sight and out of mind. We have hopefully moved on from that mindset today, although looking around sometimes I wonder, and think that some of the problems in society could be addressed properly if they were out in the open and treated as simple facts of living.
With it has to be admitted consummate skill Sterne wrote something that is really still as funny today as when he wrote it, and still has the power to provoke thought and intelligent discussion. So ultimately you could claim that this novel is one of the longest jokes ever put down on paper.