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241 3. Ford's Fiction: A Sirnpl i fyinq Focus Carol Ohmann. FORD MADOX FORD: FROM APPRENTICE TO CRAFTSMAN. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan U P, 1964. $6.00. More critical studies of complex modern writers should be as brief, readable and free from distortion as this new study of Ford. Mrs. Ohmann has written what is essentially an essay, admirably focused, for the most part, on a single centrally important subject—the depth of Ford's moral and psychological understanding and realism in THE GOOD SOLDIER and most of PARADE'S END, the evolution toward these high points of a long novelistic career, and the unfortunate falling away which succeeded their publication. Her perspective is intelligent, if not conspicuously intellectual, and, though much of Ford's richness is barely touched upon, her book should deaden no reader's response to Ford's work as a whole. I should note a few minor objections before proceeding to Mrs. Ohmann's real contribution. Despite its sturdy and tasteful printing, the book is overpriced. Furthermore, Fordians may tolerate a study limitad to Ford's novels but few of them will warm to Mrs. Ohr.iann's severe appraisal of most of them. Only rarely and briefly does she try to incorporate Ford's fiction into some conception of his total writing career, into the context of his life and times, or into its relationship to literary tradition and intellectual developments in the twentieth century. Her main interest is, refreshingly, in the story, and, as a corollary, in those moral and psychological conflicts which may once have been the author's, but which the successful novel c'ramaticalIy articulates. Other readers may be more ready than I am to accuse the book of being all too casual or simplistic. These readers might point to the chapter headings as symptomatic ("Early Problems," "Easy Answers," "Batter Ones," "ΤϋΞ GOOD SOLDIER," "PARADE'S END," "Epilogue"). But Mrs. Ohmann is too perceptive a critic to merit such charges. I find her reading of the early novels, however negative, profitable insofar as It leads back to an intelligent approach to THE GOOD SOLDIER; she finds in the earlier work "a record of slow and difficult moral and psychological discovery wherein the conscious mind of a creator comes eventually to understand and to subdue to art fictional situations that his unconscious mind had, from the beginning, insisted on telling." THE GOOD SOLDIER stands on its own feet as few novels in this century do, but Mrs. Ohmann has discovered a way, through retrospective reading, of making some of the more salient truths about that novel clear. One wishes, though, that throughout her book she had devoted less time to lengthy quotations and synopses of plots, and more time to full critical analysis. She dismisses too readily the importance of a study of Ford's technical development, hence the sub-title of the book, "From Apprentice to Craftsman," is highly mi:s le"ding—more apt would be something like "His Progress toword Moral Sanity, with a brief Epilogue which laments his Strange Regression into Earlier Confusions". I could not agree more with a statement which closes the "Good Soldier" chapter: "THE GOOD SOLDIER rests, I think, on a severe and wonderful achievement of selfcriticism ." No previous critic of the novel has said quite that, and such a statement, with the discussion that precedes it, ¡ think quite valuable at this date. Mrs. Ohmann's high point is this chapter, but ! cannot escape a sense of falling off of interest and acumen in the discussion of PARADE'S END and the negligible "Epilogue." In the PARADE'S END chapter there is an unprofitable digression, it seens to me, on the application of certain aspects of Martin's THE LOGIC AND RHETORIC OF EXPOSITiON to an understanding of Ford's own rhetoric; and the "Epilogue," dealing with Ford's fiction of the 'thirties, seems a bewildered afterthought. 242 The "Good Soldier" chapter begins with a firm endorsement of Mark Schorer's 1948 "Interpretation." Mrs. Ohmann then moves through the anti-Fordian medium of Albert GueVard, to her eminently reasonable conclusion regarding the reliability of the narrator. "If Dowel 1 is blind to the emotional and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 241-243
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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