6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This was Ford Madox Ford's attempt to lay out the panorama of literature from ancient to modern times for the general readership. It's largely forgotten today, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it's still in print.
Ford was a champion of new, experimental work in his time. That would be the poets and novelists of Modernity as we see them now. Beyond the writers of his day, he also felt that there was importance in both the popular and obscure works of earlier generations. This book lays out his opinions and insights on many centuries of (despite the subtitle) mostly western literature.
This is probably not the preferred "general survey of world literature" today, but for literature folks this is a wonderful glimpse of our culture's, and Ford's personal, take on literature before the second world war. You'll certainly disagree at times, and some of his stances have not aged well, but what is here is well reasoned and interesting.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2010
A bit of a charlatan and a bit of a blowhard, Ford is nonethess one of the more attractive figures of 20th Century literature. He's fun to read, almost in spite of his rambling style and at times almost incoherent attempts at analysis. There's something lovable about him that surfaces in the conversational tone of this book, an obvious attempt to make money during his low-income twilight years. His wanderings thru ancient Chinese and Hebrew writings don't follow any recognizable thread and support no clear thesis. . . but what the heck?
Nevertheless, he's quite strong on later written prose (after all, he wrote a terrific novel in The Good Soldier). . This is a book to be sampled in small bites, not one to be read cover to cover. It's loaded with semi-precious gems and I'm happy to have it in my library.
on September 12, 2015
Ford Madox Ford was an off-putting man to many. Hemingway, in one of his more brutal moments, painted Ford as an snob and fool in A MOVEABLE FEAST, but others less judgemental than Papa had mostly bad or dismissive things to say about "Fordie".
His relationship with Conrad, which included collaborating on some very forgettable novels as well as--depending on whose account you believe--contributing to major portions of Conrad's greatest works, began well and ended badly and the majority of Conrad's biographers attribute this to Ford's irascibility, not to say pathology.
One admirable characteristic that even his detractors acknowledge is that Ford was "mad for literature". Only a few of many novels are remembered now (PARADE'S END, THE GOOD SOLDIER), almost all his other books are long forgotten, but his overwhelming interest in fictional art remains and nowhere does it appears more strikingly than in the volume under review.
What Ford proposes to do in THE MARCH OF LITERATURE is, of course, impossible--to trace literary art from Confucius to "the present" (1938, when the book was written). If you skip even a few pages, you miss a major part of the picture he's attempting to draw, but at the same time, MARCH shouldn't--and probably can't--be read from p. 1 to p. 800. It's a book to read piecemeal, odd judgments jostling with illuminations, but unlikely to lead many readers to some of Ford's more obscure personal favorites, even though reading his enthusiastic admiration of them is a pleasure.
Of the above-mentioned THE GOOD SOLDIER, I find it hard to believe that the novel has the major status many attribute to it. A serious and moving yarn, true, but compared with almost any other masterpiece of the 20th century, it seems a very minor "classic". (Interesting that Ruth Rendell, the crime novelist, admires it and says she's read it many times.) PARADE'S END, though praised by Auden, Graham Greene, Anthony Burgess, and others, is shot through with elements that possibly appeal more to Brits of a certain age but too quickly become boring to modern readers, which makes it a "masterpiece" most people won't enjoy reading except in part. And unfortunately the two novels written with Conrad are pastiches of R.L. Stevenson, definitely a writer for another time, in spite of his admirable prose.
So perhaps THE MARCH OF LITERATURE is really the best book by Ford, because it illustrates his obsessive love for fictional art, the legacy from him for the present, an admirable example of unqualified love for the verbal imagination.