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Stack of Books
Posted on Sunday 22 July 2012 at 2:39 pm

Parade's End

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Earlier this month I read Ford Madox Ford's tetralogy Parade's End and I absolutely loved it. I went into it expecting to be somewhat underwhelmed because it is about British upper middle class / lower nobility society and sex scandals and all that during World War I while that same class of people is starting to come to grips with the idea that their lovely Victorian / Edwardian world and empire are starting to crumble around their ears and I've only read about 50,000 novels on those two general topics so I just didn't expect this one to offer much of anything new. Except somehow it did. The basic plots and ideas were fairly standard but the important distinctions are that it is all more tongue-in-cheek and absurdist (in trying to describe the books to a friend I said it was Jane Austen crossed with Catch-22 set in World War I which I'll stick with) and the main character, Christopher Tietjens. The focus of the four books isn't so much the events as it is Christopher's attitudes and philosophy and internal thoughts. You really get into his head and it is a fantastic little place to be as he's so odd and amazing and the way his thoughts are written is fantastic: the language, the style, everything.

I just found out that BBC2 and HBO apparently filmed a five-episode miniseries based on the novel sometime late last year or early this year and it is supposed to air later this year. By the way, if it is July, I don't think TV people should still be telling me "Oh, later this year." They should know by now! Anyway, let me walk you through my thought process when I found this out.

(1) The whole joy of the novels isn't events but thoughts and language so it isn't the kind of book that the great stuff transitions well from page to screen. Maybe, and I mean maybe, it could be done OK with an absolutely fantastic writer and a very cerebral and intense actor for Tietjens. Without both of those and just the right execution of it all, it's doomed. I'm leery of the whole enterprise.

(2) So I went digging for more information on the writer. The script for all five episodes is by Tom Stoppard. I'm not familiar with enough of his work to make a real judgment call there. Shakespeare in Love and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead both have potential in the right ways to make me not despair, but I'm still not exactly hopeful.

(3) So it's all down to needing an actor who can do cerebral really fucking well and bring the right intensity and determination to the part. Let's see who they got... Oh. Benedict Cumberbatch. Alrighty then. I didn't know it was possible to go from leery to cautiously optimistic quite that fast, but I'm definitely watching this now.
Feeling: Hopeful
Exploring: Floor of my office
Listening: Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen

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