His fertile & animated imagination rises, falls, travels through all tones and subjects. The most vivid and true paintings, the finest and most gay critiques, the richness of poetry, the seductions of eloquence, the sweetest emanations of morality and sentiment flow without order, one after the other, from his smooth, natural and abandoned pen.
Journal encyclopédique, 1 August 1786
No, they don't talk about my sense of writing phenomenally and they neither talk about gay people. Instead, they are talking serious, or not so serious, literature that changed the way we read today. Let me introduce to you Ladies and GentlemanVoltaire did not like it that much but I do. Probably he was just jealous that Sterne was allowed, or allowed himself, to play in the streets of his conscience, calling it narrative strategy.
So one could take a look at the two priests in literary history: Rabelais and his honorable successor Laurence Sterne.
So guess who's who. One of them lived 200 years earlier and has a hat. Well, I guess you could tell anyway that the left one is the younger fellow because he has no beard. Obviously. While I am staring at both of them right now with them staring back at me, I am thinking about who is the more handsome guy (my facial expression is just as skeptical and doubting as theirs) and which one of them made the nuns of their time giggle in church? Would either of them have liked to be decently touched, like under the skirt, in a narrow hallway .. let's say, in New Saint Peter's Basilica? Well that's not my phantasy, it's rather Michelangelo's innocent worries in view of Bramante's concept for the church's re-building in the early 1500's. Shame on you, Bramante, you did not think well in advance. And as Sterne put it in words just as accurately as usual:
" then you whispered me in the ear **** ** **** ** **** ** **** **
Every other man would have wished the ground would swallow him up. "
He impressively uses the modern beep-tone in a very appropriate manner. Censorship is and was a big deal throughout all times but such a modern approach and lookahead to our times is rarely found.
He pretty much experiments with everything: with the rules of his time, the decorum of earlier times (and how much he can provoke the ones who are still desperate for order and hierarchy), the capability of the book as a medium and the requirement of a (calm) layout - which he disturbs, interrupts, shatters and fractures with simple black boxes on one page or switching to forms and shapes instead of coherent words that one knows on another. He does not give space for illusions of any kind, whether it is a mimetic narration or the shaky fiction that a layout can get hold of the chaos, giving it a concrete and tangible form. As I read in an article about Sterne's work:
Perhaps a writer has the obligation to write about the areas of life that we don't have profound knowledge about in order to make them part of our reality which, in this case, is our imagination.