Let's stop being so weepy here. Some clickage for your Monday.
1. All Star by Smashmouth, as sung by Disney characters. This is a college song for me -- egads, we even bought the album.
2. Auditions for the role of young Han Solo. I love Jeff Goldblum.
3. The physics of the "hardest move in ballet".
4. A series of posts by John Cuddeback on the use of architect Christopher Alexander's Pattern Language in making a living home. I love A Pattern Language and the way that it helps break down into discrete patterns the emotional reaction a person has to a space that seems to "feel alive".
5. Look, I'm creeping nearer to forty, and I'm not going to get back the body I had when I only had four children. It's time to embrace the me I am now. It's time for: the green Mom pants.
6. I am going to a wedding in October, and I want a dress. I've been browsing ModCloth, which is full of the most lovely creations. Some of them I can reject out of hand; I know what doesn't sit well on me. But many of them are so pretty to contemplate just at the level of being glad that they exist, even if they don't benefit me personally. (C.S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, calls this the first stage of Eros.)
7. Finally, I have finished Tristram Shandy, after two years of trying. Brandon has a review up that pinpoints why the same qualities that make this book important also make it so frustrating in places. Up from the comments, here's my assessment:
Back when I was in acting class, one of the things we discussed was the concept of art as life distilled. Art distills life in a lot of different ways, some far more comprehensible than others, and yet for all that, distillation is always there, as it must be. Even if, say, an author goes full scatological or pornographic, those element are distilled for the effects that will most appall or titillate, and that particular filtering removes the art even further from the reality it purports to describe.
The greatness, and the tediousness, of Tristram Shandy is Sterne's project of distilling for the absurdity of trying to describe life in a linear, orderly, tightly controlled fashion. The chaos makes a certain amount of sense. As you say, how can you fully describe a person's life without understanding their parents, and what formed their parents, etc. And yet, it gets frustrating after a time -- all right, a fairly brief time -- because one of the things we expect someone writing a novel to do is to tell a story. And telling a story is the thing that Sterne stubbornly refuses to do. He diverts. He digresses. He doesn't allow his characters to finish stories. He breaks them up with short chapters of otherness. He interrupts stories with other stories, and then doesn't finish those. I suppose the frustration becomes one of more of his bawdy jokes.
Sterne is by no means unskilled with the innuendo; I raised an eyebrow at the sheer salaciousness of the Jewish widow making sausage. But the bawdiness grows wearing, especially when it's not connected with a story. And sincerity kills it -- Corporal Trim can barely go on with the naughty tale he's telling about his brother Tom when Uncle Toby is so affected by the unessential plot detail of the poor slave girl. His devout concern takes a lot of the zest out of Trim's tale; bawdy jokes always depend on a certain swaggering attitude of mockery.
We get so little of Tristram himself as a child that it becomes especially glaring in the section with the sadly faulty window. Other writers would have focused on the child's reactions, sensations, perceptions; Sterne takes the chance to philosophize and nudge nudge by sending us back to the adults. To my mind, it made the story less interesting, but again, it's not about the story.
My favorite passages also had to do with writing. Volume VI, Ch. XL: the lines representing Tristram's progress through his volumes so far. Volume VIII, Ch. II: On beginning a book. Volume IX, Ch. XIII: on curing writer's block by shaving.8. Last but definitely least: While walking by the local bookstore on Saturday night, we noticed that there was going to be a release party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the next night. We didn't have a lot of interest in reading it, but the big girls love to dress up, so they went down.
|Sybil Trelawney reads the tea leaves.|