What’s the oddest book you’ve ever read?
Did you like it? Hate it? Did it make you think?
The questions come from Deb at Booking Through Thursday.
The first answer that popped up in my mind as soon as I read the question was Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne, which was first published in nine volumes between 1759-1767.
The full title of the work is:
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.
I read it in my third term of university English, which was close to 30 years ago. So off-hand I can’t really recall more than my general impression. Which was – odd! I did not hate it, though. In fact I think I quite liked it. And it did make me think.
Among the things I remember is that it includes some strange graphics such as black pages, blank pages, hand-drawn lines – and lots of digressions.
In fact, the telling of the story takes precedence over the actual story. And that, I suppose, is more or less the whole point!
I still have it in my bookshelf, so here is an excerpt:
From Tristram Shandy; Volume I, Chapter 22.
In my copy of the book, I have added in my own handwriting:
“Digression on digressions”!
Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;—they are the life, the soul of reading;—take them out of this book for instance,—you might as well take the book along with them;—one cold eternal winter would reign in every page of it; restore them to the writer;—he steps forth like a bridegroom,—bids All hail; brings in variety, and forbids the appetite to fail.
All the dexterity is in the good cookery and management of them, so as to be not only for the advantage of the reader, but also of the author, whose distress, in this matter, is truly pitiable: For, if he begins a digression,—from that moment, I observe, his whole work stands still;—and if he goes on with his main work,—then there is an end of his digression.
—–This is vile work.—For which reason, from the beginning of this, you see, I have constructed the main work and the adventitious parts of it with such intersections, and have so complicated and involved the digressive and progressive movements, one wheel within another, that the whole machine, in general, has been kept a-going;—and, what’s more, it shall be kept a-going these forty years, if it pleases the fountain of health to bless me so long with life and good spirits.
Pictures borrowed from a web page by Glasgow University Library.