Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Parade's End

One of the things I do, apart from writing poetry, or blogging, or studying Japanese, or day-dreaming, while I am at work, is legal research. Usually this is a pretty dull affair, consisting as it does of finding cases, legislation, past legislation, pending legislation, proposed legislation, pertinent legislation, peculiar legislation, articles, bill-jackets, treatises, SEC Filings, researching the legal history, and histrionics, of individuals, corporations or other entities duly constituted and incorporated in the U.S., Canada, the UK, EU, Mexico, Mongolia, Mars, the Lesser Magellanic Clouds, and M-31.

Most days I leave my desk at 5:30 with a hideous headache.

Even so. Beastly as these headaches sometimes are, collective life in the corporate cube is not all bad. You do have access to oxygen, elevators, emergency stairs, windows, computers, cafeterias, and highly corrosive coffee and tea. And sometimes you stumble across something curious in the course of your work. In one of the cases I was copying from the New York Law Journal this morning, I came across the surname: Tietjen. And for some reason, in the the back of my brain I heard a little bell tinkle. Where had I heard that name before?


Actually, there was no bell. In fact, if the truth be told (which it occasionally is in this blog), I knew exactly and instantaneously where I had heard that peculiar name, or at least an echo of it, before: Parade's End, by Ford Maddox Ford. I quote from Wiki:

Parade's End is a tetralogy (four related novels) by Ford Madox Ford published between 1924 and 1928. It is set in England and on the Western Front in World War I, where Ford served as an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, a life vividly depicted in the novels.

The novel chronicles the life of Christopher Tietjens, "the last Tory," a brilliant government statistician from a wealthy land-owning family who is serving in the British Army during World War I. Tietjens may or may not be the father of the child of his wife, Sylvia, a flippant socialite who seems intent on ruining him. Meanwhile, Tietjens' incipient affair with Valentine Wannop, a high-spirited suffragette, has not been consummated, despite what all their friends believe. Much of the novel is spent following Tietjens in French trenches as he ruminates on how to be a better soldier and untangle his strange social life.


"Much of the novel is spent following Tiejens in French trenches as he ruminates on how to be a better soldier and untangle his strange social life."

I work in an office, and I know very little about the trenches of France, only what I have read in the work of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but I do know something about entanglements. I wake up with knots in my shoulders all the time. Still, I wonder if it is wise to conceive of life in general, or your life in particular, as a novel--or worse, a poem--even from the safe and sanitary distance of Art?

What happens if you want to put your goddam book down and just get some sleep?

No comments: