How to Read Lawrence Sterne's Novel 'Tristram Shandy'.
Tristram Shandy is a hard novel to read, but funny and brilliant too. These are the best tips I've come by from passionate readers of the novel, summarized for ease of reading:
1. Be patient. Sterne is all about distraction; distraction IS the point of the book. Accept that and let go of expectations and you'll enjoy it.
2. Re-read the first six chapters several times until you get the feel for it. The feel or flow of text is the thing to notice, not the story.
3. Learn what Sterne is trying to do: innocent entertainment, with the eye to puncturing moralistic seriousness.
4. Learn what Sterne is NOT trying to do: the "novel" didn't exist in its modern realistic form at this time and there were no boundaries for writers. In other words, be charitable to the guy; he didn't know what he was doing because he was the first to do it.
5. Read both high and low: notice classical references and crude plays on sexual and scatalogical references. Sterne is master of both high and low taste, and constantly melds them together.
6. Skip boring digressions. There are some boring bits; skip them! Sterne doesn't play by the rules of novel writing; you are not obliged to play by the rules of novel reading.