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What's All This Then?

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The Good Soldier
by Ford Madox Ford

Field-Tested by Andrew Womack

across the UK

After touching down at Gatwick airport in early July 1994, my father, brother, and I rented a car and drove four hours west of London to Hay-on-Wye, the "town of books." Sifting through two or three of the dozens of bookshops there, I found a brittle Penguin paperback of Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier (1946 cover price: one shilling).

Still dazed from the trip, and without my brother’s zeal for first editions, my father and I went in search of a pint. Two bitters apiece later, we headed back to the shops to find my brother. Cutting through a side street, we instead found two post-coital dogs that appeared unable to unhook their genitalia. More surprising than their elasticity, however, was their apathy; they looked like they were waiting for a bus. I’d never seen anything like it before.

“I’ve seen this before,” said my father, who’d been in the navy.

We saw a man approach with a primed garden hose, squeezing off a couple of shots into the ground with the spray nozzle.

“This guy knows what to do,” my father observed, and we hurried along.

For the next three weeks, we piloted our Ford compact across the UK — to Bristol, to Newcastle, to Manchester, to Land’s End, to Dover. Too young to drive a rental abroad — and the only one of us who didn’t claim to suffer carsickness — I was stationed in the backseat. From there I polished off the 230 pages of The Good Soldier, in between sights.

Andrew Womack is the co-editor in chief of The Morning News. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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