Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Laurence Sterne, inventor of the inside joke

On Laurence Sterne's birthday, it's appropriate to acknowledge his invention of jokes only well-read people would get. Tristram Shandy remains the longest and best inside joke in literature, and maybe the joke is on modern readers who try to discover things in it that aren't there.

I'm curious to know if anyone who's read A Book of Ages has discovered the inside joke I inserted alongside Laurence Sterne. (Write to me if you have.) As with most jokes, it's all about context. Juxtaposition.

Having read Shandy once, I prefer to have it read to me these days. (John Moffat's Naxos reading is wonderful.) It's like rewatching a familiar episode of Seinfeld in which nothing really happens. (Jerry Seinfeld also appears, once, in A Book of Ages.)

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