The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Oxford World's Classics)

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Oxford World's Classics) - Laurence Sterne, Ian Campbell Ross

'Tristram Shandy' was my October, and I'm a little upset about that. It's true that I was able to squeeze in a few other things, but a few graphic novels and a child's book fail to even out the scales of a month.

Sterne for his day, I'm sure, was hilarious. Countenances must have lit up left and right while waistcoats and stays threatened to burst from bodies quaking with mirth. As for myself, with one exception, all of 'Tristram Shandy's humor was strictly academic. I could recognize why someone of the period would think the various fumblings and misfortunes and dicknoses were funny, but that's worth a golf-clap in acknowledgement of cleverness and a weary swipe of the finger as I move on to the next chapter.

Shandy's voice and the looping, ever-digressive narrative are inventive and ground-breaking, but my e-book edition dispensed with most of the trickery, leaving only brackets with notes like [Blank Page] instead of an empty field to sketch one's mistress, or the famous marbled pages. Somehow I doubt their presence would have gotten me invested in the narrative. Sterne trolls his readers by delaying any momentum in his story as long as space permits him. He is illustrating a point, to be sure, but I can't abide cleverness for its own sake if it fails to entertain or inspire me.

I'll take my own share of the blame, I'm merely a dull reader, but I'll never recommend this book to anyone except as an artifact. Not alive.