Sunday, January 06, 2013

Writing as Conversation

Notes on Tristram Shandy

I have been reading Tristram Shandy slowly for a couple of months gradually becoming accustomed to Sterne's melange of allusions, false starts, detours, and general wordplay that often borders on word-buffoonery.  Throughout it all the narrator/author is having a conversation with the reader.  This is the first installment of my notes, quotations, and other comments on this most post-modern eighteenth century novel.  Here is Sterne on writing:

"Writing, when properly managed, (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation.  As no one, who knows what he is about in good company, would venture to talk all;--so no author, who understands the just boundaries of decorum and good-breeding, would presume to think all:  The truest respect which you can pay the reader's understanding is to halve this matter amicably, and leave him something to imagine in turn, as well as yourself.
For my own part, I am eternally paying him compliments of this kind, and do all that lies in my power to keep his imagination as busy as my own." (Chapter XXXVI, pp 117-118)

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne.  Everyman's Library, 1991 (1760)

No comments: