Excalibur: A ludicrous Arthurian fantasy
The gage is thrown down on Underworld

Ford Madox Ford vol. II, or why am I reading this?

The second volume of Max Saunders' mammoth biography of Ford Madox Ford has arrived and it continues to (mostly) impress.  Saunders does tend to get hung up on literary meaning, symbolism and his interpretation of why Ford's work is so great, but I have to cut the guy some slack.  After all, he wrote more than 1,000 pages on the topic.

He's clearly a fan.

This book picks up where the other ended, with Ford now serving as an officer in the British Army during World War I.  I will have more to say on this later, but one element that stands out is that after an awkward beginning and a severe episode of shell-shock, Ford actually took well to Army life, so much so that he considered remaining in the service after hostilities ended.  Apparently, he proved very gifted in providing lectures and mentoring young officers.  He would certainly have found a home in the training establishment, but he put his writing career first, and so was demobilized.

The rest, as they say, is history.

This is yet another point of comparison between Ford and Evelyn Waugh, who military service did not end on such an optimistic note.  To be fair, Waugh's service was of greater duration and he never seemed to find the ideal billet that Ford did.

But as Saunders notes, Ford was unusual among mobilized writers insofar as he welcomed the structure and rules of Army life, probably because they curbed his tendencies towards chaos.  Waugh, like most writers, found Army routine tedious, particularly after five years (World War II for the British lasted nearly six years; World War I lasted little more than four).

At any rate, this is probably the most painfully obscure topic I've ever explored, so I will endeavor to keep my writing about it as brief as possible.


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I think I liked the second volume even more than the first.

I noticed your comment about David Gresham being written out and close to William Gresham. William Gresham visited his sons once, upon Lewis' request, and returned to America to marry Joy's cousin. David's experimentation with Judaism had nothing to do with his dad, who was an L Ron Hubbard sort of guy and killed himself in 1962. It was Lewis who accommodated David's need for kosher supplies at that time.

According to Abigail Santamaria, David gave quite a contrasting view of his mother and father's relationship and was quite negative about Joy. I'm more inclined to believe Douglas' version and understand his desire to write out his very difficult older brother who died in a very secure psych hospital and was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. William had a history of violence and bouts of alcoholism and was retrospectively diagnosed as having PTSD.

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