June 09, 2004

Tristam Shandy, Laurence Sterne

The anfractuous chronology—Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is presented in such a welter of flashbacks and interruptions and aposiopesis that it must be some kind of Modernist, Mina Loy kind, maybe— is probably in some fascinating but long-since unimportant way a result of codex printing-and-binding technology. Similarly, it's a perfect PDA book. In any five-minute span, either the plot will tergiversate or the dentist will see you now. You do not need to keep all the oddities ordered in memory, as having your stack popped for you is one of the pleasures.

This is a relatively early PG transcription, and the ASCII-versioning is rougher than it really needs to be; they short-sheet a joke by leaving out asterisks, and don't transliterate Greek but instead put in "(Greek)", which has the same first-order effect for those of us who don't read Greek, but I still regret it. Some layout jokes survive well, though, in parenthetical comments like (Blank page crossed by a diagonal line); which was as funny in context as I always find mentions of 4'44".

I can't remember if Quicksilver or The Confusion allude to Shandy, except in their truncated hero. There's little other parallel, since the later books are actually quite linear and monolingual and explanatory when compared to the earlier. I suppose I was waiting for a second shoe to drop when I had only imagined the first one.

The rest of this is really for my memory, a list of the bits I bookmarked:

Thou enviedst no man's comforts--insultedst no man's opinions--Thou blackenedst no man's character--devouredst no man's bread: gently, with faithful Trim behind thee, didst thou amble round the little circle of thy pleasures, jostling no creature in thy way:--for each one's sorrows, thou hadst a tear,--for each man's need, thou hadst a shilling.

The seriousness is lost here, it struck me by following so much mockery.

the great saint Paraleipomenon

(P~, "things omitted", or two Biblical books)

Poo! poo! answered the king--there are more ways, Mons. le Premier, of bribing states, besides that of giving money--I'll pay Switzerland the honour of standing godfather for my next child.--Your majesty, said the minister, in so doing, would have all the grammarians in Europe upon your back;-- Switzerland, as a republic, being a female, can in no construction be godfather.--She may be godmother, replied Francis hastily--so announce my intentions by a courier to-morrow morning.

Consider the behavior towards the uppity republic in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, and be glad to know that Switzerland holds her own in this exchange.

When Fate was looking forwards one afternoon, into the great transactions of future times,--and recollected for what purposes this little plot, by a decree fast bound down in iron, had been destined,--she gave a nod to Nature,--'twas enough--Nature threw half a spade full of her kindliest compost upon it, with just so much clay in it, as to retain the forms of angles and indentings,--and so little of it too, as not to cling to the spade, and render works of so much glory, nasty in foul weather.

(that for my Soils class)

Quanto id diligentias in liberis procreandis cavendum, sayeth Cardan.

Cardano?

O! there is a sweet aera in the life of man, when (the brain being tender and fibrillous, and more like pap than any thing else)--a story read of two fond lovers, separated from each other by cruel parents, and by still more cruel destiny--

Amandus--He
Amanda--She--
each ignorant of the other's course,
He--east
She--west
Amandus taken captive by the Turks, and carried to the emperor of Morocco's court, where the princess of Morocco falling in love with him, keeps him twenty years in prison for the love of the his Amanda.--

And more similar. Perfect summary of the continuing low pleasures of novel-reading it is, and I should blog the collection of truly awful ancient Greek and Roman novels with lorn hero/ines and lecherous goats.

In the alphabetical list in ch. 4.XXXVII, the entry for I contains "(there is no K to it)" and the next entry is for L. Surely the J was formally recognized by then, so is it left out because it's near the middle or as a symbol of truncation? There is no eyebrow-wiggling suggestiveness I would put past Shandy.

My father, whether by ancient custom of the manor, or as impropriator of the great tythes, was obliged to keep a Bull for the service of the Parish...

The Bull is there for Shandy to wiggle eyebrows at, but I put it here to give the poor overworked creature a rest. No, actually because I thought it was an interesting example of traditional balances of rights and responsibilities. Having to keep one bull per cow would make milk fiendishly expensive, and beef nearly as much so. Very sensible to expect the person with the best fences and the most trading connections to keep the regional bull. I expect the local monastery fulfilled the obligation in the honestly medieval period, but it does seem a bit much to ask of the vicar.

I've read that keepers of very rare breeds of chicken mail their roosters around in rota every few years, to keep their flocks from getting inbred. The USPS, if I remember correctly, would rather not stay in the small-stock-transport business but the chickenbreeders and the beekeepers of Maine, who need new queens every year, have so far pled to keep the service running... Rights & responsibilities.

Project Gutenberg etext #1079

So wrote clew in Fiction (18th c.). | TrackBack
And thus wrote others:
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