Ford Madox Ford was an aficionado of American literature – he founded the Transatlantic Review – so Sylvia’s Hello Central surely is a tribute to Mark Twain.
The script for the HBO mini-series is by Tom Stoppard. (HBO continues to spell out the word as “miniseries,” which looks to me like mi-ni-zer-ies, and will ever be pronounced by me as such, but I notice that the New York Times has, at last, introduced the required hyphen.) At first I thought Stoppard’s version was a bit telegraphic, considering the density of the novel, but soon all the snippets of scenes and dialogue meshed.
HBO’s Tietjens was also at first disconcerting, because he does not have the bulky avoirdupois of Ford’s protagonist, and when he is referred to by Sylvia as “that big ox” and elsewhere with adjectives befitting a largish man, the discrepancy stands out. But the HBO Tietjens’ large face, weak chin and jowls are right enough, and considering the rugged, manly alternatives that probably presented themselves, I think casting did a pretty good job. (Tietjens is Ford, no doubt about it.)
If you haven’t read Parade’s End, you probably should before seeing the HBO version, but it is four novel’s long, so you can be forgiven if you don’t.
And, if you haven’t read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, thinking that it probably was a quick slapstick farce like the Bing Crosby movie, you’re missing a warm-hearted satire that is Twain at his best.