The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is #963 on the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. See the whole list and my progress here. This summer, I’m reading from the list for my 20 Books of Summer challenge, and instead of straight reviews, I’m going to compare the 1,001 Books write-ups with my own impressions.
Tristram Shandy is a tough book to summarize, let alone in the couple of paragraphs granted each 1,001 Books entry. Contributor Drew Milne makes a good attempt, touching on the absurdities of a book about “the life and opinions” of a man who isn’t even born until several volumes in, and the experimental nature of Sterne’s writing, which acknowledges the futility of trying to capture life on the page.Continue reading
It’s Classics Club Spin time again! The timing is impeccable, as I’m suffering a severe reading hangover after cruising through two thirds of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian Maddaddam series, and feel like I need a real classic to cleanse the palate. Plus, I’ve only read five Classics Club books so far, and I need to read ten per year to stay on track.
What the heck is the Classics Club, you ask? Check out my list and the general idea here.
Want to join me? Here’s the deal:
- Pick twenty books that you have left to read from your Classics Club List (or, you know, your TBR list, if you’re not a Classics Clubber.) Try to challenge yourself: list five you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)
- Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog by next Monday (Agust 19).
- Monday morning, The Classics Club will announce a number from 1-20. The challenge is to read the corresponding book by October 1, even if it’s an icky one you dread reading!
Here we go! Crossing my fingers that I don’t get Tristram. I’m not ready yet! In the immortal words of Jessie Spano, I’m so excited… I’m so… scared.
- American Pastoral by Philip Roth. I didn’t know that much about Roth when I added this to my list. Now I hear he’s kind of a gross old man who talks about his penis a lot. SOUNDS FASCINATING.
- Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne – Long. Abandoned years ago. Too dense. Scary. But also awesome.
- Clarissa by Samuel Richardson – Long. Sounds dense. But one of those “have to read it” books.
- Stoner by John Williams – Not my sort of book at all, but added based on a rave review.
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – I’ve been poisoned against Mrs. D by 101 Books! Continue reading
“digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;-they are the life, the soul of reading”
-Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy
Only nine of these fifteen chapters have much to do with the main narrative, and of those, maybe five really move the story forward. The rest could kindly be called digressions. I know some of my fellow read-a-longers are probably a little (a lot?) frustrated with all the tangents and biology lessons. The quote above is from another book with multiple digressions that frustrated me so much that I didn’t finish it. However, I’m still loving the oddball chapters in this book! This time around, we get one chapter on “monstrous” pictures of whales and one chapter on “true” pictures of whales. No, they simply couldn’t be combined. We also get chapters on other artistic renderings of whales, on whale food, on giant squid, and, my favourite, a fantastic story about another ship altogether, the Town-Ho.
Share your thoughts in the comments, or better yet, link to your own post.
Lost at sea? For all the details on this read-a-long, including schedule and sign up, click here.
- Steelkilt: Doesn’t that sound like the name of a summer blockbuster, perhaps starring an evil Scottish robot? No? Okay. But it was the name of a sailor aboard the Town-Ho, who figured in the lengthy disgression Ishmael treats us to. The Town-Ho chapter is so random, but I raced to finish it during a lunch hour. Lots of violence, intrigue, and mutiny. I’m not sure what the point was, apart from showing us that life on the seas, or maybe more accurately, the people who choose to live that life, are pretty bizarre – lest we think it’s just the Pequod and her crew.
- Foreshadowing: There’s been plenty of heavy foreshadowing before this section, but Melville really lays it on thick:
Close to our bows, strange forms in the water darted hither and thither before us; while thick in our rear flew the inscrutable sea-ravens. And every morning, perched on our stays, rows of these birds were seen; and spite of our hootings, for a long time obstinately clung to the hemp, as though they deemed our ship some drifting, uninhabited craft; a thing appointed to desolation, and therefore fit roosting-place for their homeless selves.
- Ahab’s Wife: She’s not mentioned in this section, but when Ahab breaks out his secret crew of whalers and just generally becomes more and more intense, I keep reminding myself that he’s got a young wife and baby at home, and wonder, do they figure into his mindset at all? And what is she doing while all this is going on? I mean, MD is clearly a book by a guy, about guys, for guys, and I know Melville’s not going to address it. I Googled “Ahab’s wife” just to see if anyone else was wondering, and found a book called Ahab’s Wife was written in the 1990s and apparently, it’s pretty good! The New York Times says:
In ”Ahab’s Wife,” Sena Jeter Naslund has taken less than a paragraph’s worth of references to the captain’s young wife from Herman Melville’s ”Moby-Dick” and fashioned from this slender rib not only a woman but an entire world. That world is a looking-glass version of Melville’s fictional seafaring one, ruled by compassion as the other is by obsession, with a heroine who is as much a believer in social justice as the famous hero is in vengeance.
Tune in Next Week: Well, let’s just say Greenpeace wouldn’t be too happy with what’s coming up next.
- This Moby Dick clam chowder sounds amazing, but also like a lot of work. Kind of like the book!
- Moby Dick themed home decor. I want that throw pillow. Maybe when the kids grow up and I can have nice things again.
- This is intense. Picard and his white whale. Thanks again to @ebookclassics for finding the best clips.
Yay, fellow Edmonton Book Blogger Brie is getting into the swing of things!
What did you think of this section? Link to your blog post below and drop me a line in the comments.