This is a novel that has, since it’s publication in 1759, divided opinion throughout the ages. It certainly divided mine as you can tell from the review radar below.
While I’m all for authors trying to push the envelope of what a novel can do, such experimentation often comes at a price. In this case, the price to be paid was a great deal of readability and, unless you can excuse an autobiography dedicating hundreds of pages solely to the birth of the protagonist, any sense of plot.
Sterne was both a genius and massively influential. But genii are often unaware of the masses’ need for accessibility, much like most of us are unaware how hard using scissors is for lefties.
I’m not going to lie and say I enjoyed having this read to me. I didn’t. In fact, I let out a loud cheer in the car when it finally finished. But in reading further online, I can see quite how foundational this novel was. It set standards for what writers could do, how cheeky they could be, and asked questions of what the novel was fundamentally for.
However, I think it’s more than fair to say that it is foundational to literature in the same way that Leviticus is foundational to Holy Scripture: tediously.