I just finished reading Sartor Resartus (The Tailor Retailored). I can’t say it was pleasurable, but I usually finish what I start, whether with books or life choices: I’m still in medical school, after all. It was one of the earliest examples of postmodern literature, essentially being metafictional in the sense that it’s fiction about the creation of fiction: critics have classified it as a poioumenon.
For me, it was extremely boring. The combination of dry and archaic wit with an absence of any plot progression was just difficult to withstand, in my opinion. It is nevertheless one of the recognized English classics, and its historical presence cannot be undermined. As quoted from Wikipedia (because I’m lazy and the short entry is quite believable, at the very least):
Poioumenon (plural: poioumena; from Ancient Greek: Ï€Î¿Î¹Î¿ÏÎ¼ÎµÎ½Î¿Î½, “product”) is a term coined by Alastair Fowler to refer to a specific type of metafiction in which the story is about the process of creation. According to Fowler, “the poioumenon is calculated to offer opportunities to explore the boundaries of fiction and realityâ€”the limits of narrative truth.” In many cases, the book will be about the process of creating the book or includes a central metaphor for this process. Common examples of this Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus and Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy which is about the narrator’s frustrated attempt to tell his own story. A significant postmodern example is Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, in which the narrator, Kinbote, claims he is writing an analysis of John Shade’s long poem “Pale Fire”, but the narrative of the relationship between Shade and Kinbote is presented in what is ostensibly the footnotes to the poem. Similarly, the self-conscious narrator in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children parallels the creation of his book to the creation of chutney and the creation of independent India. Other postmodern examples of poioumena include Samuel Beckett’s trilogy (Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable); Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook; John Fowles’s Mantissa; and William Golding’s Paper Men; and Gilbert Sorrentino’s Mulligan Stew.
I have also read Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (because of Daniel‘s suggestions), and I have found both to be unappealing to my tastes. Both are too particularly English for me to love.
The novel is essentially an unnamed Editor writing about the complex Philosophy of Clothes written by Diogenes Teufelsdrockh. The Philosophy of Clothes is essentially a smorgasbord of philosophy, theology, culture, and a massive amount of tangents. I do recognize some of the wit in the tome and the attempts at humor, only that I believe it hasn’t aged well with regard to its comic side. Frankly speaking, it is about everything and nothing at the same time. If I were to compare this novel to anime, it would probably be a slice-of-life series dealing with the mundane coupled with a bit of wit. Hataraki Man comes to mind, although that series was a lot more entertaining with the issues it tackled. It’s also less forgettable compared to Sartor Resartus, because it at least has a proper plot that drives it forward. Sartor Resartus is a compilation of musings that were probably intriguing 180 years ago, but seem too trite nowadays. It would make a pretty bad anime series.