Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tristram Shandy, Day Thirteen

The book continues to amuse and delight. Tristram continues to not be born yet, although Obadiah has finally returned with Dr. Slop's bag of instruments. Dr. Slop has expressed his intention of climbing the stairs to see how Mrs. Shandy is coming along in her labor, but Mr. Shandy has stopped him; it seems that Dr. Slop is only in the house in case the midwife requires his assistance. Dr. Slop is not pleased with his auxilliary role in this birth, but Mrs. Shandy will have her way in this and Mr. Shandy is not prepared (or was, rather, unsuccessful in his attempts) to fight her on this point. Meanwhile, Corporal Trim has read out a sermon writ (and misplaced into Uncle Toby's copy of Stevenus) by Pastor Yorick, about the general failure of men's consciences to keep them on the path of righteousness. I have the feeling that this sermon was actually one of Laurence Sterne's own and that he was inordinately proud of it and so felt compelled to include it in his novel. I dare say that Pastor Sterne's prose fiction reads better than his sermons and I sympathize with his congregation.

However, the unborn Tristram Shandy gives more advice on structuring a narrative:

I have dropped the curtain over this scene for a minute,--to remind you of one thing,--and to inform you of another.

What I have to inform you, comes, I own, a little out of its due course;--for it should have been told a hundred and fifty pages ago, but that I foresaw then 'twould come in pat hereafter, and be of more advantage here than elsewhere.--Writers had need look before them, to keep up the spirit and connection of what they have in hand.


  1. He's an 18th-century MFA program. I'm saving myself $80,000 here! Not to mention the cost of time travel!

  2. I recommend the Shandy Writing Workshop. I'm now reading Book III, which was published the year after Books I and II came out. Apparently, some of the critics took issue with Books I and II, and Sterne tells them to back off in Book III. "You just don't understand my art," he seems to say. Some things never change.

    Also! Mr. Shandy is revealed to have a nefarious secret plot to have his son delivered caesarean by Dr. Slop, who has actually never performed such an operation. I begin to worry for Mrs. Shandy. Mr. Shandy has some interesting ideas about the soul, the brain and childbirthing. He believes that a head-first natural birth is what caused his oldest son, Bobby, to be such a dimwitted person. He aims to avoid that with this next child. Hi-larious!