The Rhys-Ford Affair, Over at Granta.com

My correspondence with Maud Newton on the novels Jean Rhys and Ford Madox Ford wrote after their affair is up over at Granta. For more, check out several of Maud’s posts on Rhys leading up to this, here, here and here. I’m especially a fan of that last post of Maud’s, on the writing of Wide Sargasso Sea.

Some outtakes:

  • Vis a vis the viciousness of When The Wicked Man: One of the books that loses the publisher money in that novel is titled Triple Sec, a not so subtle dig at Rhys for Rhys—few people except those in their direct circle would have known it, as this was also the original title of the book that brought her to Ford’s attention.
  • Asburnham in The Good Soldier is the character I think of as a stand-in for the man Ford wanted to be. Dowell seems to me to be Ford as he was.  Still, it’s entertaining to think of, when you read the Wikipedia entry suggesting a homosexual subtext between the two characters.
  • Also, when Maud says she can imagine what I’d say about Ford’s impressions of Oscar Wilde, I feel sure what she means is, if you look at the quote, you can see Ford is critical of Wilde for no longer being attractive. Which supports my idea of his suppressed homosexuality.
  • The loneliest thing to me in all of this is that she was never going to be Ford’s, not as Bowen was, not as she hoped, because she was too poor to afford Ford. And she never knew this. I think much in her life might have been different if she could have known this. It’s not that I think they belonged together forever—I’m not as much of a romantic as that. But Rhys had a shame over accepting money from him that might have been lessened if she knew how often he did the same with Bowen.
  • Beyond whatever I feel about Ford and Rhys, each of them has had a significant impact on my work and how I think about writing fiction. I’m not only a Rhys fan, in other words, though my feeling for Ford is much different, less emotional. Rhys I discuss here; Ford is next.

Later this week I’ll be posting about what I think of as the impact Ford Madox Ford on contemporary fiction, why he matters to me, and how I teach using his ideas.

For now, I thought I’d leave you with a bibliography of supplementary texts I read to prepare for my conversation with Maud, in addition to Quartet, The Good Soldier, The Blue Hour and When The Wicked Man:

  • The Left Bank and Other Stories, by Jean Rhys (For Rhys fans as well as anyone who loves Paris)
  • Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, by Max Saunders (2 volumes, impeccably written)
  • The Worlding of Jean Rhys, by Sue Thomas (A very enjoyable academic read, with an original style and terrific insight)
  • Ford Madox Ford and the Regiment of Women, by Joseph Wiesenfarth (A bit of an apologist for Ford, but very original and very smart)
  • The Correspondence of Ford Madox Ford and Stella Bowen (this is, as you might expect, mostly concerning money)
  • The Life in the Fiction of Ford Madox Ford, by Thomas C. Moser (a sturdy, reliable account of the ways the biography and the fiction meet)

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