Thursday, October 03, 2013

Last Post on Last Post, etc.

A few final words on the Ford/Stoppard Parade's End, of which we have at last finished all five episodes--some about Stoppard, more about Ford.

Stoppard first: my appreciation grows for his capacity to do something that always seems to have eluded Merchant/Ivory: to take a "classic" and turn it into something other than  mere visual aid, while still keeping faith with the original.  Mrs. B reminds me he has done it (or tried it) at least once before--in Anna Karenina, where it didn't work so well.  I suppose you might write it off to the fact that Tolstoy is just a much bigger whale for any literary Ahab.  But there were good bits to Stoppard's Anna: the real problem, I think, was that he had no more than an absurd two and a half hours.

A bit of Ford/Stoppard: reading Parade's End, I kept picturing Christopher Tietjens as looking like ol' Fordie, the great tweedy walrus himself.  This didn't work at all, and it did prove an obstacle in trying to get my mind round the novel.  Here in the drama, Benedict Cumberbatch may not be the perfect Christopher--but then, who would be?--and in any event, he certainly is an improvement.

And about Ford, two things.  One, it only now dawns on me how PE is yet one more rework of the Don Quixote plot--high minded romantic, tragically and comically out of touch with his own time. This isn't a complete: it just adds to the texture. The only puzzle is why I didn't notice this before.  Is it somehow not so obvious in the novel?

And second Tietjens as a brilliant and decent man so sadly misunderstood.  Based on my somewhat superficial acquaintance, I gather that Ford was a pretty awful specimen: a shameless exploiter of other men's (and women's) lives and money.  Christopher is of course all decency and propriety and if other men hate him it is just because he is so wretchedly misunderstood.  Could be that we are seeing just a smidgen of self-justification here?

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