Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy,Gentleman – Laurence Stern

This is a fascinating book about writing a book and the impossibility of trying to capture the world or one’s own thoughts. The more one thinks and wants to explain the more happens and the more there is to write.

For example Mr. Shandy wrote a book how to educate his son Tristram: “Tristra-paedia: at which (as I said) he was three years and something more, indefatigably at work, and at last, had scarcely completed, by his own reckoning, one half of his undertaking: the misfortune was, that I was all that time totally neglected and abandoned to my mother; and what was almost as bad, by the very delay, the first part of the work, upon which my father had spend the most of his pains, was rendered entirely useless, - every day a page or two became of no consequence” (Stern, 1759, p.338).

Yet, “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 eternal winter would reign in every page of it.” (Stern, 1759, p.64).

Without struggling against this impossibility to write Sterne simply gets on with writing and makes the impossibility the topic of his writing. And most importantly makes fun about how easy it is to write despite the theoretical impossibility to write.

“That of all the several ways of beginning a book which are now in practice throughout the known world, I am confident my own way of doing it is the best – I’m sure it is the most religious – for I begin with writing the first sentence – and trusting to Almighty God for the second” (Stern, 1759, p.490).

“Amen: said my mother, piano.
Amen; cried my father, fortissimo.” (Stern, 1759, p.558).

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