Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Best Life and Opinions

As we all know, they say you can't judge a book by its cover, but I was at the bookstore and saw this good looking new edition of Tristram Shandy that a little design company whipped up, I thought maybe I ought to give my copy of the Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy that I had never even cracked open a shot.  I mean, if these Visual Editions people thought this book was worth the stylish redo (trust me, it looks better in real life) there might be something to the book?

Now that I've read it, I can say Yes, there is something to this book.  While sometimes taxing, it definitely had a lot of parts worth an underlining.   But the main thing about Tristram is its style.  Published in the mid-18th century, the book certainly possesses many a trait one would assume was unique to 20th century postmodernism—for starters, you could call the book extremely non-linear, Tristram seems to set out to tell the tale of his life, beginning with a description of his birth, but you'll find yourself more than 300 pages into the book before he's finally born.

Next, stylistically, consider these examples from the book.  While they've been embellished a little by British designers, equivalent representations can be found in any edition as they're part of what Laurence Sterne's (that would be the author, at last I am using his name) whipped up when he was making this book two hundred and fifty years ago.  Might look like some David Eggers or Jonathan Safran Foer "innovation" but nope, this came from the brain of a dude that wore tight pants, buckles on his shoes, and a wig.

This sketch here is from later on in the book when Shandy/Sterne illustrates the path of the story through each of the volumes up to that point.

Also, the book is funny.  And if I had been around in 1760, I probably would have thought it was even funnier.

In conclusion: I believe Tristram Shandy to be a good book to have under your belt if you can find the time to fit it into your reading.

And another also: Of course I know today's my Mom's birthday.  That post is coming!  Happy Birthday, though.

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