I felt like I was reading this book for a really long time, but actually it took me two months, only because I interrupted this book with a lot of shorter, easier books. That makes me sound like a smug fast-reading jerk, which I might be. It took me longer than usual because I don’t find Sterne easy to read, I think because of all the dashes, although usually I love dashes all over the place and use them frequently myself. Usually I am all over this kind of thing, you know — Richardson, Fielding, all those bros, but Sterne’s prose kind of resists my brain sometimes, or vice versa. It’s the kind of thing I fully expect to fall head over heels for but I don’t. I felt the same way with A Sentimental Journey. I think Sterne had a lot of great things to say, was super funny and sharp but super sincere and sweet at the same time, but damn I just don’t find him readable! Maybe when I am older.
I finally pushed myself to finish it because I was eager to watch Michael Winterbottom’s film Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story. We recently finished watching his series The Trip, also with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. I really enjoyed that series and am excited to see their treatment of this book.
I started off reading the paper book but moved to ebook because it was lighter to take in my bag (especially when I was reading something else at the same time but felt guilty leaving Tristram at home) but also because the dashes weren’t so huge in the ebook (—— vs —) which actually made a difference. Longer dashes = more stuttery reading, I guess? I guess.
There are so many hilarious bits in this book, but they aren’t pithy one-liners — most of the jokes stretch over a number of paragraphs, so that I ended up highlighting these swathes of pages for one joke or impressive insight. Which makes it a rewarding book to read but difficult to quote.
I confess to speed-reading through parts of it (especially near the end) and I probably missed a lot, mainly because I didn’t have the patience to understand it fully. Tristram went over my head a lot of the time and although there were parts where I did take the extra time to re-read and consult the footnotes and look up a word, and all that extra work actually paid off, I’m not used to reading that way unless I’m writing an essay so screw that noise. And there were so many threads that just fell away never to be found again. I would love to be an expert on Tristram but he’s joining a big group of books I would love to be an expert on, so get in line, Tristram. One day, when I am older, there will be no books left and I’ll come back to this one and learn it inside out.
(My Goodreads review of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne)