“Digressions incontestably are the sunshine; the life, the soul of reading.”
In terms of literary innovation, the novel has fallen on tough times. It’s too bad because the term itself is supposed to mean “new.” It’s not just the novel’s fault, nor is it just the publishing industry’s changing times. Our culture wants “reality.” We want “spectacle.” Entertain us!–and it better be “real,” (the unreality of reality TV notwithstanding).
We want the documentary, the mocku/rocku-mentary, slivers of what’s “actually going on.” And that’s why The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a Godsend. Even as a landmark unto itself, it speaks to us today.
Here’s some reasons why:
1. He appropriated material.
Gasp! Sterne assimilated many passages from Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, Francis Bacon’s Of Death, Rabelais (his favorite author) and others, and rearranged them to serve a new meaning in Tristram Shandy. Nobody…
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