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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
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Rowson, an illustrator whose version of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland met with critical praise, turns his considerable skills to Laurence Sterne's 18th-century classic. This appears a sure bet: a new reading of a well-known book. Yet, the novel doesn't make the transition into the graphic format smoothly. Rowson's admiration for Tristram Shandy hinders this graphic version, causing him to rely on the text rather than the illustrations to pace the story. Moreover, this book becomes not only another version of Tristram Shandy but a commentary on reading it as several celebrities wend their way through the plot, which includes a hypothetical game of strip poker between Sterne, Swift, and Rabelais and the filming of the novel by movie producer Oliver Stone. Too complex for those unfamiliar with the original, this is nonetheless recommended for libraries with large graphic novel and literature collections.‘Stephen Weiner, Maynard P.L., Mass.

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Rowson, an illustrator whose version of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland met with critical praise, turns his considerable skills to Laurence Sterne's 18th-century classic. This appears a sure bet: a new reading of a well-known book. Yet, the novel doesn't make the transition into the graphic format smoothly. Rowson's admiration for Tristram Shandy hinders this graphic version, causing him to rely on the text rather than the illustrations to pace the story. Moreover, this book becomes not only another version of Tristram Shandy but a commentary on reading it as several celebrities wend their way through the plot, which includes a hypothetical game of strip poker between Sterne, Swift, and Rabelais and the filming of the novel by movie producer Oliver Stone. Too complex for those unfamiliar with the original, this is nonetheless recommended for libraries with large graphic novel and literature collections.‘Stephen Weiner, Maynard P.L., Mass.

Best known in this country for his cartoon version of The Waste Land, British cartoonist Rowson (Lower Than Vermin: An Anatomy of Thatcher's Britain, etc.) rises to a new challenge in this comic-book rewrite of Laurence Sterne's nine-volume 1767 masterpiece. Solemn figures like Eliot, Marx and the Iron Lady are, after all, longstanding objects of fun: it's easy to laugh at a sourpuss. But Tristram Shandy is already just about as cartoonish as The Great Books get: a mock-novel packed equally with philosophical digressions and physical comedy. Rowson never quite gets around this obstacle; he simply goes over the top by trying to out-bawdy the bawdy and out-slapstick the slapstick. Near the middle of the book, Oliver Stone starts filming a movie version of Uncle Toby's military misadventures ("From a Place Called Namur to Hell and Back"). That's the sort of spoof this is, and Rowson makes it the occasion for parodies of a surprising range of graphic predecessors, not just Hogarth and Piranesi, but also Dürer, Beardsley and Grosz (to name a few of his many un-Augustan pictorial lampoons). (Nov.)

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