Thursday, October 14, 2010

derek beaulieu: Nothing Odd Can Last

Are the bawdy passages and double entendres important in this book?
Could it have been omitted?
Does the author guide his pen or does his pen guide him?
Does she have redeeming qualities?
Does the novel demonstrate that there can be postmodern texts before post-modernism?
Do you think the author intended to end the novel with the ninth volume?
How do we account for the author’s strikingly unsentimental treatment, at times, of such topics as love and death?

How does the seventh volume, in which the narrator describes his travels through Europe, relate to the rest of the book?
How ironical is their presentation?
How much control do you think the writer has over the mixture of digression—both kinds mentioned above—and the narrator’s history?
How sentimental and gushy is the writer of this book?
If the latter is true, what justification can there be for that?
If you were a reader like the Lady, who reads “straight forwards, more in quest of the adventures, than of the deep erudition and knowledge,” how would you feel about the novel?
In what way are such details important to the author’s method?
In what way is it possible to reconcile the statement that the book will “be kept a-going” for forty years with the contention that the novel is completed?
Is it legitimate for an author to require—or even request—that the reader do things like “imagine to yourself,” replace misplaced chapters, and put up with omitted chapters?
Is kindheartedness necessarily mawkishness?
Is she as stupid as she seems?
Is the author in control of his digressions (and merely affecting their spontaneity), or does the story actually run away from him and have to be reined back in?
Is the writer unable to present a straightforward story, or does he deliberately frustrate the reader?
Is there any importance to this, or is it just the author’s bawdiness?
Is there sufficient justification for such passages in the book?
Or should the reader say to heck with it?
What are some of the qualities that the writer of the book has inherited from his forebears?
What does this indicate about the writer’s plan and his control of what he was doing?
What evidence is there that the narrator’s childhood traumas actually influence his adult personality?
What is the author’s attitude toward science?
What is the effect of the precise visual details given in the book?
What is the effect of the narrator’s frequent addresses to his audience?
What is the relationship between the “I” who narrates the story and the author?
What kinds of scenes receive this treatment?
Which predominates?
Why or why not?
Would it make sense to interpret the novel psychoanalytically?
Would you argue for or against his statement?
Would you rather that they were deleted from it?

NOTHING ODD CAN LAST consists of 36 alphabetized questions from Coles Notes-style websites on Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. From How to Write, this piece originally appeared online at DrunkenBoat. The video contains a reading of both "Nothing Odd Can Last," and "Cross it over it".

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