Sorry, I could not finish this. I made it to about page 250. Which was better than anyone else in my book club. I felt better knowing no one else could finish it either.
The same joke — 18th century English gentry’s formal speech is funny ha ha ha — for 600-800 pages depending on the edition you pick up is a bit much. Maybe there was something of a language gap? Yes, but everyone in my book club agreed that when we read Shakespeare we don’t have the same problem. When we read Grandpa Willie we read it and laugh and are amazed. Not so much with Sterne. I chuckled through first 30 pages and the rest was grind. It’s worth noting Shandy was originally published in installments so no one in the 18th century was hitting an 800 page monster.
I admit there is probably a lot more going on thematically than I realize since I didn’t finish. Sometimes the aboutness of a work grows like a benign tumor (or maybe a malignant tumor in the case of a book like Infinite Jest). I reluctantly acknowledge my ignorance and bow out. I wouldn’t feel so bad about myself if the book I am reading in lieu of finishing Shandy wasn’t John Krakauer’s book about Pat Tillman. It feels low. Maybe that is not so bad. Maybe that is like choosing to watch Frontline over Masterpiece Theatre.
Maybe it feels salacious because Krakauer is so compulsively readable. I can’t put Where Men Win Glory down. Tillman’s stranger than fiction life is more than enough reason to read Where Men Win Glory but the book is also a concise military history of contemporary Afghanistan, the Taliban, and the role of Osama bin Laden therein.
If you are interested in religious fanaticism you would probably like Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven which profiles homegrown religious criminals, mostly the marry-your-own-14-year-old-niece type.
If you are more interested in Tillman’s rugged individualism (personally I’m more interested in soft and tender individualism) you should check out Krakauer’s first book Into the Wild, a biography of Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, which Sean Penn turned into the popular film of the same name.
But if Tristram Shandy is more your thing, the library has many copies and various editions can be downloaded for free from Google Books.
Shakespeare and Tristram Shandy really don’t have anything to do with one another.