Movies: A Taste of Vintage Shandy

Take one much loathed classic novel and turn it into a cheeky postmodern film. Strangely, it works

A daunting test--more like a hazing or a prank--for unsuspecting English majors, Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent. has for nearly 2 1/2 centuries been the least-read classic in the canon. The novel is such a wildly, willfully discursive history of its hero and narrator (whose birth does not occur until more than halfway through the book) that the notion of turning it into a 94-min. film raises two stubborn questions: How? and Why?

The answer comes in a comment on the novel in the movie Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story: the book is "a...

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