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This review is taken from PN Review 154, Volume 30 Number 2, November - December 2003.

SEEING WHERE WE STAND ROBERT HAMPSON and TONY DAVENPORT, editors, Ford Madox Ford: A Reappraisal (Rodopi - Ford Madox Ford Society)
SARA HASLAM, Fragmenting Modernism: Ford Madox Ford, the Novel and the Great War (Manchester University Press) £45


'My business in life, in short, is to attempt to discover and to try to let you see where we stand.' This is Ford Madox Ford in the postscript to the 'Dedication' of his first volume of reminiscences, Ancient Lights (1911), ostensibly addressing his daughters but clearly speaking also to a wider audience, and it sums up key aspects of his work as a writer: his commitment to the profession of letters, his sense of vocation, his heuristic approach, his stress on the visual, his concern with showing rather than telling, and his desire - so achingly explored in A Man Could Stand Up - (1926) - for solid ground, for orientation, for prospects and mappings of the landscape. But in Ford, seeing where we stand is a kind of paradox: in the 'Dedication', Ford's claim that it is his business in life to foster such vision is made in the context of a defence of his cavalier way with facts in the interests of the veracity of the impressions he presents; but impressions in Ford's work, charged with intensity as they are, and partly indeed because they are so charged, are teasing, misleading, protean, vanishing before our eyes, opening voids under our feet. This instability is dramatically enacted in key moments of his fiction: Dudley Leicester's descent into 'a world of dread', in A Call (1910), after he answers the phone when he is in a potentially adulterous situation and finds himself unable to identify the (male) ...


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