12.3.13

Too Hot To Blog

It's been too hot to blog, and I've got a dozen other things I should be doing right now, but I just wanted to mention this huge fat book I'm reading.

I blame Sherlock. If it wasn't for Sherlock, I wouldn't have fallen for Benedict Cumberbatch. If it wasn't for Benedict Cumberbatch, I wouldn't have decided to watch Parade's End on TV (well, okay, maybe I would, seeing as how it's a period drama partly set in the trenches of the Western Front...) If it wasn't for Parade's End coming on TV, I wouldn't have picked up this 836 page book in the second hand bookshop a few weeks ago. Yes, you read that correctly. 836 pages.

In fact it's four novels in one volume. But that doesn't make it any easier.

Ford Madox Ford published this mighty tetraology between 1924 and 1928, so very close in time to the events he's writing about. The language feels authentically 1920s, with slang and idiom which is at times almost incomprehensible. (Someone once asked me for advice about getting the 'voice' for an historical novel; I recommended reading novels written at the time.) But it's not just the dialogue (internal and external) which is making this a difficult read. Maybe it's just Ford Madox Ford's writing style -- I've never read any of his work before, so I don't know if this is typical. But I'm finding myself reading passages twice or even three times, because I just can't understand what the heck he's getting at!

Maybe it isn't just Ford's style, because when Michael and I watched the first episode of the TV version together, he kept stopping to ask me, 'What's going on now? Who's that guy again? Is that his wife? What just happened then?' And Michael, unlike some blokes, is usually pretty good at following storylines. Perhaps the main problem is that the central figure of the drama is Christopher Tietjens (sounds disconcertingly like Christopher Hitchens, unfortunately), a character who seems congenitally unable to take any kind of ACTION. He can't defend himself against his frankly horrible wife, or any of the (false) scandals that bizarrely come to surround him, because that wouldn't be honourable eg he won't simply divorce his wife, even though they are clearly miserable together, because 'only a blackguard' would subject a woman to that. And she refuses to divorce him, because she's Catholic. So... four books full of anguish and despair...

And yet for some reason I can't let it go. Reading this is WORK. I feel as if I'm trapped in some exotic landscape, in continual danger of losing the track beneath my feet, groping through the mists -- and yet I'm compelled to go on --

Not unlike the characters in the books, now that I think of it!

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