How do you stage the first English novel to be fully conscious of itself as a book – full of jokes and references to its own printed form? Surprisingly well: even without most of these formal gags, what remains makes for a highly enjoyable evening of convivial wit from an urbane and decorous 18th-century narrator... no guffaws, but constant grins and chuckles. Stephen Oxley's Tristram is comically apologetic for his compulsion to engage in digressions, which gradually fill his entire, surreal autobiography.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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