Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

One of the first bestsellers, dismissed by Dr Johnson as too fashionable for its own good. ...more info on wikipedia

About the artist: John Riordanfrom the UK

John Riordan is an illustrator and comic artist living in London. He co-creates and publishes the psychedelic, musical, soap opera, comic book Hitsville UK. He wrote and drew the strip ‘William Blake, Taxi Driver’ for Time Out London and has produced work for clients including the BBC, The Guardian and Nature. He is currently studying for an MA in Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. John likes cats, mustard and Mayans.

The work

“I read the book when I was at university. Well, to be honest I read three quarters of it, ran out of time and had to write an essay about it anyway. Drawing this poster was the perfect excuse to go back and read it again, and this time finish it! In a way, this is quite appropriate. One of the themes of the book is that you can never really finish anything, and also that nothing goes according to plan. Though the title makes a claim to be an autobiography, the book is anything but. Tristram Shandy hardly appears in his story, because he is too preoccupied with filling in the back story. The book is one long, hyperactive digression. It’s barely a novel. It’s possibly an anti-novel. Writing at a time when the novel was in its infancy, Sterne pulls apart and pokes fun at the conceits of written fiction. There’s a black page to mourn a dead character, a marbled page (both of these are referenced in my poster), missing chapters and a series of diagrams which supposedly show the narrative shapes of each volume (I used one of these as the decorative line beneath the author’s name). As Steve Coogan says in the film adaptation, A Cock and Bull Story, it’s ‘a post-modern classic written before there was any modern to be post about.’ It’s also a piss-take of the Age of Reason, in which every character is carried away by his obsession (or as Tristram has it, his hobby horse) and a defiant laugh in the face of death. I love it because it’s hilarious, absurd, and bloody minded in its perversity. After 500 plus pages, it ends abruptly with a provocative suggestion that the reader has been wasting his time. ‘L--d!’ said my mother, ‘what is all this story about?’ - ‘A COCK and a BULL’, said Yorick - ‘And one of the best of its kind, I ever heard.’