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.