REVIEWS: Books, Art, Film, Articles & Essays
David A. Adams
Life of Pi by Yann Martel:
A Review with Comments About ERB
(Warning: there are probably spoilers below, but I tried my best to avoid them. I promise I didn’t give everything away, mainly because this would be impossible in this story with so many layers of meaning.)
I finished reading Life of Pi last night. It took awhile to get this story from the public library system since it was out and presumably being read the past two months by others.
I found the story to be interesting, not only from the relationship with ERB’s Lad and the Lion mentioned on ERBlist some time ago. Actually, the only surface kinship Martel’s story has with Lad is the fact that a boy travels with a wild animal in a boat. There are many other more compelling ones.
Pi develops a relationship with a tiger rather than a lion, and his association is largely one of Pavlovian training rather than bonding -- although Pi does acquire a human fondness for the beast, even though the tiger never does the same for him. The tiger remains a tiger -- as ERB was fond of saying, “A lion is always a lion.” I believe that many ERB fans would enjoy this story, especially those who are interested in both human and animal psychology.
Martel’s tale is a quick read, only 319 pages, but there is much going on beneath the surface of this lovely little story. The first 97 pages tells of Pi’s religious proclivities, which involve his embracing three faiths -- Hindu, Christian, and Muslim. He is told by his elders that this is impossible, and that he must choose one and be satisfied with it, however, he does not relent, and we are taken on a rather unusual journey into the world of a boy who wants to love God in his own way.
After the shipwreck, the story of Pi and the tiger becomes a solid adventure yarn. The religious aspects fade into a bare struggle for survival. “Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away” (168-9). We are taken on a voyage that ranks with the best of this type of literature: the daily struggles for food and water, the elaborate plans he must devise to share this narrow space with a savage beast, his own descent into savagery. Pi turns from a vegetarian into an active hunter, “It is simple and brutal: a person can used to anything, even killing” (185).
Yet, Martel’s story is not as simple as I may have made it seem here. Pi continues his religious musings on the boat, yet they seem distant and not really a part of his struggle for life. Critical efforts to remain alive become paramount (and are described in graphic detail). I did not see a completely successful linking of the first third of the story with the rest, probably because the opening was so long that to do so would have required a novel of twice its length.
It’s the last two sections of the novel that raise its complexity to another level entirely. It begins with the “blindness” episode (240) running through the “botanical discovery” (256-286). (I’m trying not to give away the story to those who want to read it.) Perhaps Martel gives us a hint that what is happening by his opening of chapter 87 “One of my favourite methods of escape was what amounts to gentle asphyxiation.” (236). I will only say that the tale takes on a new level of dreaminess and fantasy, under the influence his “dream rag.” Or does it really?
The final chapters open another can of worms. Telling his story to the Japanese Ministry of Transport causes disbelief, so he tells them another story, one that will satisfy the more literal minded. We HAVE already had an extremely real telling of LIFE OF PI, yet who could possibly believe it? Pi tells them his alternate story and asks, “Is that better? Are there any parts you find hard to believe? Anything you’d like me to change?” (311).
The men then more or less do a literary structural and psychological analysis of his tale LIFE OF PI, but cannot tie up everything neatly into a box. Pi asks them, “...which story do you prefer? Which is the better story; the story with animals or the story without animals?” (317). Like ERB’s ETERNAL LOVER, there is another twist at the end -- or perhaps it lies at the beginning in the first section on religion. It is essentially a story that invites multiple readings.
I enjoyed Martel’s novel. It reminded me of many other tales of survival on the sea, yet there is much to be discovered by a closer reading than my own. The comic literary analysis under the guise of an interview at the end raises several questions in relation to ERB. Which story do I like better, the one with the animals, or the one without? Which is more interesting, ERB’s divorce told in a manner like F. Scott Fitzgerald might have told it or like his own in TARZAN’S QUEST? Which one would be more interesting? Which is closer to the truth? The answer (to me anyway) is both. Indeed, Pi’s retelling of “what really happened” is gripping in itself, but as the men comment, “What a horrible story!” It IS much better with the tiger.
Note: Tarzan is mentioned on page 158. “Plan Number Three: Attack Him with All Available Weaponry. Ludicrous. I wasn’t Tarzan. I was a puny, feeble, vegetarian life form.”
Like ERB, there is a frame to LIFE OF PI, and the frame invites belief. I don’t know that this story does what Martel suggests in his “Author’s Note,” that is: “make you believe in God,” but it does make you see the depths of storytelling possible in offering a real story, which is taken as fantasy by others, and a fantasy that seems true, yet is the real fantasy. Perhaps this is the link with the first half of the story . . . tales of religion that are taken as fantasy by the literal minded ARE true, while our explanations of what really happened are false, or at least, “horrible.” Pi comes back from his ordeal with more than “the horror,” and this is what makes this tale a wonder.
I hope at least a few members of the list read this story and tell me what they think about it. For some, like Dr. Zeuschner, Frank Blisard, Woola, Lion Man, this story is a must read. Again, LIFE OF PI can be read as an interesting adventure tale without getting philosophical about it, but to do so would be to miss Martel’s intentions and the reason he won the Man Booker Prize in 2001. Fans of ETERNAL LOVER will love the whole thing. Fans of LAD AND THE LION might think it slow, but the details of the sea adventure are fascinating in their own right.
The relationship between man and animals is explored in a unique setting, but the real story is the nature of storytelling itself.
LA OF OPARA David Bruce Bozarth Pastiche
Reviewed by Nkima
Tangor has again provided us with one of his little gems. DBB is without a doubt the most prolific of the ERB pastiche writers, and yet one is reluctant to call his work simple pastiche because it is always more than this. Most pastiche writers work from the premise that a truly successful work is one done so well that it appears to come from the pen of the original writer. With Tangor, only the premise comes from a story of ERB, and from this cell he takes us quite rapidly into other regions of speculation, which are always expansive and startling. He works with great skill and understanding of historical social morès and subtle human relationships among various races, in fact, to a much greater degree than ERB himself. I have often noted after reading one of his "expansions," (perhaps, a better term for DBB's work) that I wish that ERB had written those words because that terminology would subdue a lot of critic and critical speculation regarding Edgar Rice Burroughs' so-called “racist” attitudes.
I suppose one of the difficulties in writing pastiches when you are a better writer than the original is that they become too deep, too refined, too expansive. Tangor keeps a tight rein on the fantastic elements of his stories (something that some ERB pastiche writers could well emulate) but he does indulge in more explicit sexual descriptions than ERB would have allowed.
In the final analysis, a story by Tangor always provides us with a unique "twist" that keeps the reader turning the pages. We expect from DBB a depth of social and psychological conflict not found in ERB, so in a sense Bozarth's stories could stand alone without the ERB pastiche hook that gets us to read them.
I don’t want to give away any of the delights of discovery in Tangor’s new story "La of Opar," so just let me say that it quickly expands beyond ERB (after some surprising revelations) into his more personal mode that enlarges the legend beyond the realms of pulp fiction. There is always a touch of Twain in Tangor--just as there is in ERB himself--but Tangor is not afraid of grappling with much darker issues than Burroughs would have been comfortable with, and the treatment of his characters is always handled with a great deal of understanding and truth. There is a genuine warmth of human understanding in Tangor’s writing and this alone might lead one to read his stories, regardless of their relation to Burroughs.
August 20, 2002
"-sit down boys. I'll tell you a story that will curdle your hair and give you nightmares and wishful dreams for the rest of your life."
I stayed up until midnight to finish reading part two of Tangor's La of Opar. It's really quite an extraordinary accomplishment. The two stories are extremely well-written, exciting, touching, in many ways the best things Tangor has written. I recommend them highly -- they are outstanding.
As I said previously Tangor's pastiches are much more than simple pastiches; rather, they are expansions of characters created by ERB, extensions of the possibilities; yet, they are solid stories in their own right. There is a lot of the Texican author in these tales, his humanity and kind insight raise his stories head and shoulders above other works in this genre.
If you have not yet read the La of Opar series I am here to tell you each tale is worth your time and consideration. These stories are so full of surprises it is difficult to tell you what they are about without giving them away. La comes to civilization and a new understanding of life; yet, she remains La and draws from the savage strength of her African youth when she needs it most.
DBB's writing is right on target, and often is hauntingly beautiful. I found his dialog to be true--even as I wondered if savage La could ever have become such an American woman, but La herself reminds us that she has lived longer in civilization than she lived in Opar. In a way, the characterizations in Bozarth's La of Opar series is the sort of thing Burroughs might have accomplished had he lived long enough to combine his series characters with mainstream writing.
Tangor is the last of the old time pulp fictioners.
October 29, 2002WARNING SPOILERS BELOW!
You should read all three of the La of Opar stories before you read this!
Tangor has given us part 3 of his La adventures. In a way, I wish he had waited until it was finished. The first part is folksy, like the beginning of the other tales, but just when the heart-pounding adventure should begin, he summarizes the plot with a letter. The nice thing is, the story is open for further treatment. (See the author's note at the end of part 3 which does offer an eventual promise to complete the tale.)
The letter declares what the world knew of La's adventure at that point in time. What really happened in Russia remains to be told by Tangor when he finds the time to write it down. We all know that a few scattered bullets fired into a speeding car are just a red herring. Tangor, most of all, knows it too, and we should get a smashing story someday when it is really completed.
Even so, Tangor's La of Opar series as it exists is quite a remarkable tale! Somehow I wish they could drain the lake and uncover old Opar so the characters could go back one more time. Elmo, a Tarzan-like character yearns for it.
"The stories Elmo told put images in my mind that were fantastic and exciting. He talked, almost as one possessed and I understood that his enthusiasm was a deep regret that a life he once knew and loved had disappeared."
This reader and reviewer cannot anticipate Tangor’s direction for this series. DBB always comes up with surprises of his own! Meanwhile, the story of La goes forward in time...the adventures are never over!
October 29, 2002
MOON MAID AT EARTH'S CORE
A Andy Nunez Pastiche
Reviewed by Nkima
Nunez knows his Pellucidar backwards and forwards, inside and out, up and down. His ERB pastiche is an outright adventure story told in the grand old pulp fiction style, that is: it moves along with a rapid pace with hooks at the end of each chapter that force you to read on instead of stopping at a “convenient” spot. True to ERB’s style, but not a slavish imitation, Nunez, in a remarkable introduction that captures Jason Gridley’s voice to a tee, brings up another story from beneath the earth from Abner Perry, which he tape records and writes down for posterity. Especially touching is Gridley’s account of ERB’s death.
The conceit is a Navy pilot by the name of Byron Wells who happens upon Pellucidar and begins a series of adventures much like those of ERB’s typical wanderer through those nether regions. It is extremely well-written and thoroughly entertaining.
This is a fairly long novel that might be read in a single evening. For fans of Pellucidar, it is a must read story. Nunez stays within the parameters of the possible in this world within a world. He does nothing that ERB would not have done had he written another Pellucidar novel, although this one tends to read more like his earlier, more serious ones, rather than the lighthearted end of the series. Nothing extremely unusual happens that takes it outside the normal pastiche realm, yet it is a memorable story, and is one that is sure to entertain ERB fans.
Nunez has written another romp in merry old Pellucidar with style and has all the details of this world at his fingertips. It was obviously a labor of love for him to write, and it reads as though he had been there himself, so much is seen and described. I give this novel the highest marks as a solid Pellucidar pastiche, yet for myself I would have liked some astounding revelations or expansions of the canon to occur. I know this was not his intent, and in such a well-written novel, my personal tastes must go a-begging. It is something fine to have this Pellucidar adventure to read on a cold winter’s night. Why should I ask for more?
The novel does provide extensions of ERB world, and these fit within the framework provided by the Master of Adventure. I cannot say more, or it will spoil the tale for you. It is a rousing tale of love and daring-do reminiscent of the old pulps, finely crafted and solidly serviceable as my Mission Oak desk.
October 29, 2002
Tarzan, Son of Tars Tarkas
David Adams’ Review of:
Notes on Edgar Rice Burroughs
by Richard Kyle
Thanks to Jerry Schneider I was able to read Richard Kyle’s interesting article in the ARGOSY Special Edition 1993. According to the Argosy contents, Kyle was the editor of this magazine at the time, which solves my question about the identity of this more or less obscure ERB writer. This would be a particularly interesting issue to pick up when going through piles of old magazines at auctions or antique malls. According to the Contents, this issue also contains an article by Ed. Morrell called “I Am Convict 16766, By Name, Morrell.” Morrell is the man who inspired Jack London’s “Star Rover,” which is of interest to ERB fans because of the “reincarnation” theme, or perhaps better stated as, the theme of atavism, or even better, “the Phra-syndrome.”
Probably most ERB fans would consider Kyle’s ideas to be “off-the-wall,” but the truly interesting thing is that he hits you with so many of them in this short article that after awhile you stop ducking. His range of speculation reminds me of P.J. Farmer -- not necessarily the ideas themselves, but the extent of his daring to think about ERB and his works in a new way. I like the article because it’s not the usual, quite predictable, thinking we find in pieces about “our author.” I suppose that conservative fans would say that Kyle is “all wet,” but to my way of thinking, this only throws a “wet blanket” over any possibilities of original thinking. (A “wet blanket” also wrapped and tortured Morrell in the asylum -- funny how images spring up out of the subconscious.)
Kyle is one of those writers who lets ERB’s images work on his own subconscious, then lets the reader see the results no matter how far-fetched they may seem to be. The article is three pages long, one page going for thoughts about “The Origin of Tarzan,” then two pages about “Who Was Normal Bean?” Kyle’s thesis is based upon ERB’s love of word-play that he claims carries a subliminal message to the reader. He states that “The concealment of images within the narrative’s own words and the use of complex symbols were two of Burroughs’ greatest strengths, permitting him during his most creative years to embody subtle ideas and emotions in seemingly simple storylines.” In fact, Kyle is telling us that ERB’s imagery is as complex as anything Tolkien thought out in a rational manner. The difference is that in ERB it springs fully armed from his subconscious, combining all of his mythological reading with a lively imagination and letting it pour out his mind and pen like a river with many tributaries.
Of course this line of thinking is full of pit-falls to the wary, rational man. What immediately springs to mind is the case discovering of hidden meanings which are quite imaginary. One might say it’s the “The Beautiful Mind Syndrome,” referring of course to the award-winning film about a man who created complex structures out of a mentally ill condition. Perhaps a reader of Burroughs’ many novels might become fixed upon his virtual pantheon of images and begin to see things that aren’t really there. He might become a Carson Napier, getting information by a sort of mental telepathy, then flying off to Mars but ending up on another planet entirely.
The odd thing is the fact that ERB himself seems to encourage this mode of thinking, due to his fondness for complex puzzle making, although most of the time it is engendered by tongue-in-cheek humor -- at least this is the common interpretation of his intentions. (Of course, sometimes writer’s intentions and the results are often two very different matters.)
If you think that Farmer’s speculation about Tarzan is great fun, you will appreciate Kyle’s essay. You don’t have to ascribe to all the ideas in this sort of speculation, just be willing to see the way a beautiful mind may twist and turn. For instance, this statement:
“Tarzan is Tar’s son, the metaphorical son of Tars Tarkas.”
Well, you can either dance up and down on one foot and holler your head off -- saying “Piff, piff, poo, poo,” or you might take it for what it is -- an invitation to take a closer look at these two great characters and see how they might be related.
I realize that to many people black is black and white is white. They are the ones who will jump up and say, Tarzan is white and Tars Tarkas is green, end of story, without understanding that both characters are “Green Men.”
If I were to follow Kyle’s example I would leave you with my “Green Man” image and say, “have a nice day.” It’s your job to unravel the thread. However, I’ll throw in a few clues for your consideration. Let me do a “beautiful mind” and expand on Kyle a bit.
The green man is also the wild man, an ambiguous fertility figure sometimes known as “Jack-in-the Green.” (Of course, this covers both John and Jack Clayton, father and son, who were both green men.) Alford links the green man to Herne the Hunter, the Horned God of the woods, which of course is linked to the legend of Robin Hood, another green man.
Robert Graves connects the green man with the Green Knight in the King Arthur legend, which ERB knew quite well. The Green Knight was an immoral giant whose club was a holly-bush. He and Sir Gawain, who appears in the Irish version as Cuchulain, a typical Hercules, makes a compact to behead one another at alternate New Years . . . Graves goes on to link the Green Knight with John the Baptist, then to Jesus. I suppose the next step might be to J.C. (John Clayton or John Carter.)
I suppose that Tarzan’s relationship with Tars Tarkas is largely metaphoric as Kyle suggests. He puts a lot in store in the similarity of names as an indicator of perhaps more than ERB intended. To be fair, Kyle does say that the relationship is largely subconscious, and to really know ERB’s subconscious is of course impossible.
How does Tars Tarkas fit into all of this other than being a green giant carrying a spear who rides on a thoat with a band of green men? Well, that’s the dangling thread to be gathered up for some -- while the relationships are obvious to others.
It is this sort of thinking that is suggested by Kyle’s article. I find it fascinating, but I suppose some will scoff and say that ERB’s work is nothing more than fanciful tales for children or adolescents without any more depth than can be found in a teacup.
Should I have the time and the desire, I might become a Fisher-King in the depths of this fanciful and attractive sea. It really doesn’t hurt to take a closer look at the character of Tars Tarkas, even from the standpoint of a sort of embryonic Tarzan. Some characteristics seem to match -- the rather taciturn nature, the warrior mentality -- but the true ape man was yet to be born. One might equally find as many of Tarzan’s characteristics in John Carter himself.
Like Tarzan, Tars Tarkas was a man between two worlds in a sense because he had a degree of compassion and did develop a friendship with John Carter. He was unique among his kind, a figure that Burroughs expanded to the highest degree with his later creation of a man raised by a tribe of apes. Tars has a daughter named Sola, who is also an anomaly, showing traits of mercy and tenderness in cruel, savage surroundings. If one is to follow Kyle’s thesis to the end, one might even say that Sola was the metaphoric mother of Kala since they both suffered from being different in a rigid society.
Perhaps one should be open to such tropes. Metaphors after all are complex comparisons that sometime startle the reader. They are not meant to dissect the frog, but rather note that it is a spotted, leaping leopard.
What else is in the essay? Well, I’ve given you but one statement from dozens of such provocations. I find it fun and full of ideas, so I’ll give you a few more just for the taste, if such is your taste. If they all confuse you, anger you, or bore you to tears -- I bid you a fond fare well -- may you find your way around the wilderness instead of forging through it.
Carson Napier is Carter’s metaphoric son. (Carter’s son ape-ier)
Venus (Amtor) is a compromise between Tarzan’s and Carter’s worlds.
Sir Jules du Vac was subconsciously related to Paul D’Arnot.
Normal Bean, not ERB, wrote “I Am A Barbarian.”
In the end, perhaps the metaphor of “ERB, the labyrinth” is a good one for he was indeed a masterful “Dream Weaver,” a maker of wonderful games. The novels do not have to hold a Great Code for a “beautiful mind” to discover, and yet, there are many ways through this Burroughsian labyrinth. It’s what you find in there that makes the difference. Some people get lost in the complexity of the maze, while others wander for years admiring the twists and turns of the pathways. Others get lucky and walk right through the entire labyrinth without a single false turn and say, “there’s nothing to it; it’s just a simple story.”
Burroughs always claimed that there was nothing more than the simple stories, then he turned away from his readers with a smile, while his whirling cape threw the smoke of these words into their eyes so that no one could see him ride off on a thoat rather than a simple horse.
The Heins Reprint
Copyright © 2001
Oct. 29, 2001
(Written from the crow’s nest in Bird Island)
My Dear Tangor,
I have a few words to say about the new Heins, which arrived by mail today. Aye, I’ve cut open the cardboard box that lay waiting upon my counter and have drawn forth the treasure from its wrappings and pink crumbles. I first saw it lying in there like a dream under the carefully arranged packings, shining gold against it’s black box like a mystery of doubloons at the bottom of a sea chest.
I brushed the fluff of popcorns aside and lifted the monster from his cave, all bound up in plastic sleeve that I readily slit with my gully and brushing aside the last remnants of debris, I held the book aloft, glinting in the light of day, St. John’s Tarzan and the Golden Lion, a familiar friend gazing back at me against the jet black wonder of it all. Henry Hardy Heins is mine -- that volume I have coveted for going on six years already, not having the wherewithal to purchase an older copy.
It’s a right handsome tome in it’s case without reading a word of it -- the white dust jacket peeking it’s black lettering to me with a promise of all things Burroughsian whispering within. Of course, I paged through at once, turning the leaves with care until I drank all the comfort I could upon holding such a thing and knowing I could finally seek out and find what the experts know first hand without intermediaries or guessing at some fabled contents.
The slipcase came easily away in my hand, and I read the bottom oval -- #49 of a thousand -- happy enough to see such a low number -- I had ordered it as early as I could, in fact as soon as I heard about it in the Gridley Wave.
Again, carefully removing the dust wrapper so as not to tear it it handling the book itself, the golden lion once more appeared as on the box, this time embossed upon the magical covers itself. The book’s raven wings echoed the box in a charming way, an obvious treasure of bookbinders art, so rich and wonderful to behold. Inside, front and back the lion again appeared, facing right and left according to the lay of the paging, but this time black on the cream colored pages -- how odd the back one seems when facing the other direction -- and signed by the Doctor himself in blue ink.
I must leave it to the experts to tell what lies within, how it all fares with time, what has been added to the text, and the other details of the bibliographer’s art. For me it is simply, “The Book” -- the golden tome of my desires upon the shelf at last. It will ride the waves in glory beside my leather bounds and the boxed Folio Society gems that grace my shelves like ships lined up at the docks, waiting for the passing of my hand to raise those secret sails.
Nkima Picks the Best of
ERB Magazine Articles 2000
David A. Adams
Copyright © 2001
It has occurred to me time and again, as it probably has to many of you, that there is a good deal of writing about ERB and his works that gets “lost” in the shuffle of fan magazines. The current issue arrives in the mail and after paging through and reading some of the articles that strike your fancy, it goes into a pile of things to be cataloged later, and many good pieces are never seen because the next issue arrives -- and the cycle begins anew.
Of course there is no substitute for a good index to go hunting for that “great article” you read some time ago, but I thought it would be fun to make my own list of especially good articles that I want to remember. I realize this will be a highly personal selection that will reflect my own tastes -- one that will cater to my own interests -- but I’m throwing it out anyway for anyone who may be interested. The tough thing is to look at the article for what it is and not try to get a nice, comfortable balance of articles by “the big names” in ERB fandom. If I think an article is good enough to remember, good enough to read again -- perhaps one that opened new ways of thinking about ERB’s writing -- it will appear on my list.
One might think that it would be impossible for me to place my own work in such a list with any degree of objectivity, and indeed it was difficult to do so. However, this project has been very instructive to me, and I have tried to look at my work as a reader coming upon it for the first time. It has been a good way of remembering what I have done as well as a way of inspiring me to write better articles each time I sit in front of the computer screen.
There is a much greater wealth of ERB fan writing that I expected to find when I began this project. I made up my own groupings when the best articles began to seem to me to fit specific categories. There could be many more, including the best pastiches, which is an area that I wish to leave until a later date because they are in another plane of creativity entirely.
I do not subscribe to every ERB fan magazine, so my list is limited. The magazines under consideration here are: The Burroughs Bulletin (four issues), ERBapa (four issues), The Fantastic World of ERB (2 issues), and the ERB Collector (1 issue), for a total of 11 magazines published in 2000. Again, my main purpose is not to give out awards but to bring good articles into the spotlight which may have been missed by fans over the past year. If one or two or many of your favorites did not make my list, it is probably because I too overlooked them. If you have additions or corrections drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org (outdated). If you absolutely hate this list, all the better, because you may be inspired to make one of your own, and “sleuthing in the stacks” (as Altrocchi put it in the title of his book that only contained one essay on Tarzan) will be of benefit to us all.
Articles Listed by Category
I decided to present this list without a ranking system and arrange the articles under various categories in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. Everyone who tries his or her level best to write something for fandom deserves encouragement and a pat on the back for the effort. ERB article writers are a very small band indeed. Each is a dedicated fan who strives toward offering their best, and every article offered to the fan magazines is appreciated and read with gratefulness.
So here are the titles of some of the songs we have sung in the past. I have opened these closed pages once again to hear the the music that lies in silence upon the shelves. Let me say once again, that each voice is a valuable one, and if your own is not mentioned here, it is only because I perhaps was listening for a different combination of tones.
My intent is to begin a list of the best writing, as I see it, for 2001, but these selections will not be revealed until 2002. I also plan to do similar lists for 1999 and continue backwards in time through the magazines that I own. I basically have the magazines listed in this article, so if you want any others to be considered for this review please send them to me, or you may copy any other single articles from fan magazines and e-mail them to my address.
Here are my rankings for 2000. I hope it gets you back into those dusty shelves for some good reading you may have missed!Best Critical or Investigative Essay Based Upon an Original Idea
|Adams, David:||Tarzan’s Rock Climbing Records (ERBapa No. 64, Spring 2000) Although I consider this to be a good article, it only covers climbing at Opar. The idea should be greatly expanded to cover all of Tarzan’s rock climbing exploits, which are covered in detail in many of ERB’s stories.|
|Butters, Roger:||Was Jane the Only One? (The Fantastic Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, # 47, Spring - Summer 2000-2001) Quite a nice article. It’s the Tarzan & La connection again that so many have conjectured, but Butters comments upon all the possible women in Tarzan’s life and provides a convincing argument that Tarzan & La actually married.|
|Ferrier, Joseph Walter:||Bloodthirsty (ERBapa #67, Fall 2000) A look at Tarzan and vampirism!|
|Hanson, Alan:||The Nightmarish Side of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #44, Fall, 2000) An extremely well thought-out article, comprehensive, with cautiously drawn conclusions. One might go a bit further and speculate how ERB’s fiction acted as a healing process for him. As the nightmares continued throughout his life, so do his efforts to come to terms with his fears. ERB often mentions the fearlessness of Tarzan as though his most famous character had no human experience of this emotion at all. (This denial may be one case of ERB’s feeling that his own nightmares were a sign of a personal weakness.) An interesting article in itself, yet it lays the groundwork for a deeper psychological investigation of ERB, a task that is yet to be done. Although Burroughs was not a novelist who presented profound psychological insights when drawing his characters, more of his own psychology may be uncovered by further thoughtful investigations of what is unconsciously revealed in his work. His attitudes toward women, which are certainly misogynist to an extreme degree, are an open book. The difficulty of writing a clear psychological profile of Burroughs is that most writers approach him with a worshipful attitude, so Hanson’s article is ground breaking and daring and may open the way to further studies that will be able to avoid haigiography and present us with additional valuable insights into this difficult, shrouded writer. (10 pages, illustrated)|
|Hanson, Alan:||ERB -- The Sports Man: Part 1: Team Sports (ERBapa No. 65, May 2000)|
|Hanson, Alan:||ERB -- The Sports Man: Part 2: Individual Sports (ERBapa No. 66, Summer 2000)|
|Stock, Tom:||Law and Justice in the Burroughs Canon, 9 pages (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #42, Spring, 2000) Certainly a well-considered article, ground breaking and presented in an interesting way.|
|Zeuschner, Bob:||ERB and the Test of Time Revisited (ERBapa No. 66, Summer 2000)|
|Barrett, Robert R.||ERB and Metropolitan Newspaper Service: Being an Account of “Tarzan and the Lost Empire” (Part 1 of a series of 3 articles) (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #42, Spring, 2000)|
|Barrett, Robert R.:||ERB and Metropolitan Books, Inc. Part II: Tanar of Pellucidar (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #43, Summer, 2000)|
|Barrett, Robert R.:||ERB and Metropolitan Books: Part III: Tarzan At the Earth’s Core (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #44, Fall, 2000)|
|Hanson, Alan:||The Porges Biography Twenty-Five Years Later (ERBapa #67, Fall 2000) A history & tribute|
|Huckenpohler, J.G.:||Burroughs Unbound: Preliminary Notes for a Complete Listing of the Unpublished Works of ERB (ERBapa No. 65, May 2000) Very modestly stated: This is a list of over 200 items, more or less complete, of all the unpublished works. Scholarly, useful, interesting list.|
|Nowakowski, Witold J.:||Burroughs in Poland (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #41, Winter, 2000) A rather specialized article but a fascinating, well-illustrated piece that covers over 50 years of ERB publication in Poland in but 4 pages.|
|Ross, Bill:||ERB’s Appearances In The Fan Press (Part of an on-going series by this master collector) (Part XI: The Fantastic Worlds of ERB - Index) (ERBapa #67, Fall 2000) (Part XII: Erbania, Part 2 (Issues #41 to Present) - Index (ERB Collector, #46, November 2000)|
|van der Zouw, Hennie:||Tarzan: A Resurrection or a Renaissance? (The Fantastic Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, # 48, Autumn - Winter 2000-2001) Good coverage of the Dark Horse Tarzan comics with every one listed|
|Adams, David Arthur:||ERB’s Book of the Lion (ERB Collector #46, November 2000) An entertaining study of the lion in ERB’s writing based upon his possible reading of contemporary literature on the beast|
|Adams, David:||Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins with Jad-Bal-Ja the Golden Lion: The Morphology of a Folktale by ERB (Part of a series on Propp analysis) (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #41, Winter, 2000)|
|Adams, David:||The Jungle Tales of Tarzan: A Morphological Study Based Upon Vladimir Propp’s Structural Theory of Folktales (The Fantastic Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, # 47, Spring - Summer 2000-2001) Valuable scholarship, but too difficult in its presentation to be make it popular reading.|
|Dumont, Richard J.||The Terrible Bird (ERBapa No. 65, May 2000) A study of ERB’s Dyal in his novels and in the Dell comics. Well-illustrated. (This is a part of a series of interesting, illustrated articles on Burroughsian beasts. )|
|Adams, David Arthur:||Fabulous Tales from a Papyrus Scroll: Tarzan and the Lost Empire (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #42, Spring, 2000) A nice little piece of historical investigation told in a clever fashion.|
|Adams, Duane:||Tarzan the Magnificent: A comparative study (ERBapa No. 66, Summer 2000) Compares the ERB novel with Tarzan Dell #l quite completely|
|Adams, Duane:||Moon Maid - Supplement to the Moon Maid Glossary (ERBapa No. 65, May 2000)|
|Ferrier, Joe:||Deputy & Bandit (ERBapa No. 65, May 2000) Ferrier’s articles are more than investigations of the guns used in the stories. In this article he gives cogent reasons for his identification of the man in Stein’s dust jacket of Bandit, along with other well thought-out ideas about the plots of these two novels.|
|Jackson, Rod:||In Search of The Outlaw: Part 1, Norman of Torn (The Fantastic Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, # 47, Spring - Summer 2000-2001) Jackson’ two-part series is a “must-read” effort.|
|Jackson, Rod:||In Search of the Outlaw: Part 2, Torn Castle (The Fantastic Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, # 48, Autumn - Winter 2000-2001)|
|Cuthbert, Raymond A.:||Marcia of the Doorstep -- At Last! (ERBapa #66, Summer 2000) An interesting, brief review in light of Henry Hardy Hein’s 1966 essay from BB, New Series #1|
|Wild, Mary McGeehan:||The Girl from the Doorstep -- Burroughs’ Best ‘Realistic” Novel, or a Romantic Mystery? (ERBapa No. 66, Summer 2000) An excellent review & analysis of Marcia - 8 pages|
|Dunn, Laurence G.:||Famous last words . . . (ERBapa #67, Fall 2000) Dunn’s account of his experiences at the DumDum in Michigan are bloody and hair-raising. (8 pages with photographs and a map.)|
|Dunn, Laurence G.:||Elvis, Tarzan, Superman . . .! (ERBapa # 66, Summer 2000) An account of the ECOF 2000 Convention at Clarkesville, Tennessee. 5 illustrated pages. Dunn’s accounts are as detailed and interesting.|
|Franke III, Henry G.:||ECOFF 2000 and Dum-Dum 2000 (in his ERBapa Rap) (ERBapa #66, Summer 2000) Franke is a writer who puts out a nice convention report.|
|Thompson, Jim:||Our London Trip, December 26, 1999-January 2000 (ERBapa #64, Spring 2000) Thompson’s accounts are famous for both their length and for their amazing details. He takes copious notes (80 pages for this trip alone!) and seems to be able to include every last nuance of both the physical and the psychological ambiance into the accounts of his experiences. The London trip is especially noteworthy for his visit to the home of Frank Westwood, the editor of The Fantastic Worlds of ERB.|
|Thompson, Jim:||The Dum-Dum 2000, Grandville, Michigan, July 13-16 (ERBapa #66, Summer 2000) 11 pages of extremely detailed reportage and personal stories that bring the reader into the events as though one were actually there. Followed by: (ERBapa #67, Fall 2000) 9 more pages of the same event from Thompson’s ample diaries.|
|Cuthbert, Raymond A.:||Swinging Vine to Vine with Frank Cho (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #41, Winter, 2000) Great insight into many Tarzan artists over the years by both Cuthbert and Cho.|
|Webber, Ken:||Allan Gross Interviewed (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #43, Summer, 2000) A splendid overview of his entire career with a history of recent script outlines|
|Zeuschner, Bob:||Eddie Gilbert Remembers Edgar Rice Burroughs (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #44, Fall 2000) A comical/serious interview that reveals more than what appears on the surface.|
|Conran, Mike:||Michigan Military Academy (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #42, Spring, 2000)|
|Madden, Russell:||Tarzan: the Success of Failure (Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #44, Fall, 2000) A concise biographical portrait of ERB.|
|McWhorter, George T.:||Edgar Rice Burroughs in Chicago (A Speech given at the 125th. ERB Birthday Gala at Oak Park on October 1, 2000) (The Fantastic Worlds of ERB #48, Autumn-Winter 2000-2001) An inimitable view of ERB’s career presented by the man who knows the most about it.|
Forgotten Tales of Love and Murder
By Edgar Rice Burroughs
A Review by David A. Adams
Copyright © 2001
Illustrated by Danny Frolich
Guidry & Adkins, 2001
Edgar Rice Burroughs, who is best known as the creator of Tarzan of the Apes wrote over 60 novels on a variety of subjects besides those based upon his famous jungle hero. Among his fans, Burroughs is also known as a writer of space-operas, which were written in the same style of adventure-romance as the Tarzan books , however they take place on Mars, Venus, the Moon and Jupiter -- all with recognizable, stalwart heroes and lovely heroines that are a trademark of his pulp fiction style. Indeed in the field of science fiction Burroughs is known as “a grandfather” of this form, since he created some of the earliest examples of the genre, beginning with A Princess of Mars in 1912.
This prolific author wrote most of his novels in a series, which are grouped in various fashions by his commentators, including ones about Caspak, Pellucidar (a world within our own world) and four Westerns, to list a but few genres not mentioned above. Burroughs also tried his hand at several stories that take place in his contemporary world with notably less success than his wildly imaginative adventure tales. Notably in this category we find two works which remained unpublished until 1999, Marcia of the Doorstep and the play You Lucky Girl! both published by Donald M. Grant to the acclaim of his devoted fans.
In this vein of posthumous publication now comes Forgotten Tales of Love and Murder, a series of short stories and mystery puzzles that Burroughs wrote over his long writing career of over 30 years (approximately 1911 to 1944); Burroughs died in 1950. A few of these pieces have seen a previous publication a small-circulation magazine (four of the mysteries in “Rob Wagner’s Script Weekly) and one story “Elmer” in another form in “Argosy,” However, by and large, these pieces have been known to fans by titles alone, and their contents has remained a mystery until now.
Burroughs is not noted as a writer of short stories, and this collection is not likely to enhance his reputation on that score, however, it is amazing how good these tales read given their long reputation as “throw-away” pieces that were rejected by the magazine publishers of his day. The title of “Love and Murder” Guidry and Adkins selected as a general disposition of the contents is a good one because most of the stories partake of the typical Burroughsian genius of twists and turns in plotting, hidden clues to the solution of mysteries, and a general labyrinthian darkness of atmosphere that mark not only his other lesser novelettes, but his major novels as well.
When I first heard about this project a year or so ago, I was very excited at the chance to read these pieces, most of which were completely unknown to me. As a long-time fan of Burroughs and occasional commentator on his works, I was especially interested in the new psychological insights I might gain by a look at the scraps from his workshop, and indeed these pieces do fill the bill for me. I have not read anything as exciting since the publication of Minidoka, the early Burroughsian fairy tale published by Dark Horse in 1998. To me, Minidoka was a newly opened gold mine from which tons of ore may yet be brought to the surface, and these new tales are branches into other deep veins that may uncover similar depths of literary understanding. It is often the “stone that the builders reject” that most reveals the secrets of the structure that stands, and in the case of Burroughs, it is these very puzzles, these fragments of marble that surround the monuments of his novels that I find most telling of his methods and intent.
If I seem to be mixing my metaphors it is because the material at hand demands such an approach. These tales may help to uncover methods of Burroughs’ writing even more than the long novel “Marcia” and the aforementioned play simply because they are so cryptic. First and last, Burroughs is a maker of mysteries and puzzles. He is a master of weaving the threads of a tale, twisting his plots and characters into complicated Gordion knots that make the reader wonder how he will ever untangle all the strands of his yarn; then suddenly, like the great magician he is, he will pull a single strand and stand like a Houdini with a wide grin on his face with a smooth, straight rope in his hand as he bows into the curtains.
To me, this book is a great treasure. I thought I could write a review, doing a little number on each of the pieces between its covers, but now that I have read it all, I can see that I will have to write a complete article on each story -- they are that good. This little review I am sure is only the first of many more to come.
I’m going to stop writing at the present time to take a deep breath before I venture into this labyrinth again. Like Theseus, I need Ariadne’s thread to follow before I dare approach the Minotaur that lies at the center of this maze. There are skeletons in these closets, bodies in the trunk, and in the attic. Burroughs is a master in the art of misdirection. In his Twain-like “An Autobiographical Sketch” he tells us that in kindergarten he “majored in weaving mats from strips of colored paper,” and that’s saying a lot. Even though he denies the fact, it seems that his education “stuck” after all.
We owe Guidry & Adkins our everlasting thanks for bringing these pieces to the light of day. In conclusion, I think that ERB’s stories in this book, although they are admittedly uneven in quality, would be interesting to the general public as well as his most devoted fans. The puzzles are a great deal of fun, even though they are darned difficult to solve, and the clean prose of the stories comes from a clever, modern story teller, rather than from the scrambled confusions of a postmodern mind. I know this is a first edition with a nice dust jacket, but I’m not going to baby this one on the shelf. If it gets marked up and bent a little, it’s only because it is such a valuable book.
June 25, 2001
Dear Tangor: I like to be the first to review new ERB books when they interest me. Check my comments on the Ullery Tarzan summaries and see if you would like to add to (or subtract) any thoughts here since this is our baby. Ullery doesn't really step on our toes very much, but some fans might think so if they are not aware of the great depth of our project. This is a book that should arouse some interest among fans. In fact, I did rather enjoy the book and recommend it.
Dear Nkima: I haven't seen Ullery's book yet, but doubt that many fans of the works of ERB will confuse his book with the ERBList Summary Project. Ullery, like so many others (usually ignoring the entire body of ERB works) creates singular lists about the character. The ERBList Summary Project also creates lists, but does so from a STORY view and provides the only CHAPTER BY CHAPTER SUMMARY of each Edgar Rice Burroughs tale. Your review, however, indicates I'll have to bite the bullet and purchase a copy of this expensive PAPERBACK (Amazon has corrected their listing). When I checked this evening (01.04.21) somebody was already selling a USED copy for $31 and change at Amazon.
The Tarzan Novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs: An Illustrated Reader’s Guide
By David A. Ullery
McFarland & Company, 2001
“A Boy’s Complete Handbook to Tarzan of the Apes”
A Personal Review by
(Nkima) David A. Adams
Copyright © 2001
Here’s a book I would have loved as a boy growing up with Tarzan-fever on the brain. Had this book existed back in the 1950’s, I am certain that it would have become a kind of Bible to me because it contains everything that I wanted to know about Tarzan before I had all of the novels in my meager collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs lore. It is a book that Ullery dreamed about as well, for he tells in his “Introduction” of his childhood meeting with the ape-man in terms that are familiar to every true fan. “ . . . shortly, through the magical medium of print, I no longer was a spectator. I was taken in. I became Tarzan.” (Italics “on became” by the author.)
A Brief Biography of Edgar Rice Burroughs
A succinct two-page bio.
Portrait of Tarzan
Tarzan: The Man, the Myth, the Legend
This is altogether a delightful essay on Tarzan. He covers Tarzan’s physical and psychological make-up with salient quotations from the canon, and give us a mini-picture of a jungle hero that avoids a deep discussion of his feral childhood or the knotty problems of his relationships with humans in general. The only thing that might be an issue is the fact that it also avoids a discussion of Tarzan’s relationships with the black tribes of Africa, even with the noble Waziri (although they are covered well in Section Three.) Since in many ways this book is a dream-handbook for children, perhaps such a serious topic would be out of place. Nevertheless, I believe that it is precisely these episodes that are often interpreted as racial or racist in nature that have plunged the Tarzan books into the relative obscurity they suffer today, and a section discussing these matters would have been welcome, at least on a limited basis. I only mention these facts because the opening essay does set the tone for this book very well. It is a worshipful handbook, a haigeography that is so well done that it can only be embraced with joy.
Tarzan by Any Other Name
A descriptive list of 57 “names” of Tarzan from Alalus to Zuanthrol. This list includes the usual Clayton and Jean C. Tarzan, covers Esteban Miranda and Stanley Obroski, and mentions all of the other “titles” used by Burroughs from “Big Bwana” through “Wild Man.” This is a very good idea, one that I have not seen before, and one that could be done for John Carter as well. Ullery begins this section with an interesting paragraph that begins,”The Lord of the Jungle was raised with an identity crisis.”
Tarzan’s Many Lovers
A descriptive list of 16 of the women who “fell” for Tarzan, which is another great idea that is certain to delight fans and suggests further interesting articles.
The Languages of Tarzan
A descriptive list of the languages spoken by Tarzan from Alalu sign language to Swahili and other native dialects. Ullery does not list all of the dialects mentioned in the books, which come by my count to be 13, although Tarzan undoubtedly spoke more since there are approximately 200 “semi-Bantu” languages.
Dictionary of the Ape-Language
Ullery provides a brief essay and a listing of 260 words, which is probably as complete as we will have outside of a undisclosed manuscript of Lord Greystoke which may turn-up some fine day.
The Language of Pal-ul-don
The Language of the Ant Men
Two more useful dictionaries gleaned from the canon.
Lost Cities, Civilizations, Tribes, Peoples and Religions
A very detailed dictionary from Alalus to Zuli (pages 51-123).
This is a great section of Ullery’s book that takes Tarzan through his adventures in the various lost cities in great detail. It is interesting (and fun) to read -- much more than a simple dictionary entry (see my comments below on the “Cast of Characters.)
Cast of Characters
A detailed dictionary of all of the characters in the Tarzan novels (pages 124-247). This section is of course already covered by Brady’s “Burroughs Cyclopaedia” and McWhorter’s “Dictionary” if you are fortunate enough to have these books. Without a careful study of the offerings in the various dictionaries, it is hard to give more than a few preliminary observations: Brady seems to be more scholarly than Ullery, but Ullery’s descriptions read well for a general audience. Each includes information that the other does not. McWhorter is out-of-print, so it is probably unavailable to other than serious fans who will seek it out for his personal, and extremely knowledgeable (and sometimes wry) entries. There is something to be said having all of the Tarzan information in one place; however, I would go to Brady first for completeness since names in other series novels could have a bearing on those in the Tarzan series.
Book Summaries (In chronological order)
Brief, but extremely useful summaries of all of the Tarzan novels, including “The Lost Adventure” and “The Eternal Lover.” Each summary is preceded by a listing of first magazine and first book publication information and its “Cast of Characters.” Obviously, this section may have some bearing on the usefulness of the “ERB Summary Project” on Tangor’s internet site. I can only say that Ullery’s summaries do provide a nice little handbook for the general reader and for scholars who are looking for a quick reference. Tangor’s project is a chapter-by-chapter summary that goes much deeper into the stories and in the long run will be a gigantic research tool that includes all of the novels of ERB.
Index - 8 pages.
In conclusion, this is one of the most useful books on Tarzan to come along in some time. Even though I will probably go to Brady first for basic information, I’m glad enough to have this handbook on the ape-man. Since Ullery has provided a “God-send” to young fans who might be interested in Tarzan, it’s a shame that this paperback costs $45.00, which is beyond the budget of most children or parents who might like to purchase this book for their children.
So, what’s the bottom-line on this book for me? Well, I’m not kicking myself around the block for buying it, but then I’m one who would buy any new book on Tarzan just to see how someone else thinks about the ape-man. If I were the one putting this book together I would have continued with the listing idea presented in section one called “Tarzan by Any Other Name” and “Tarzan’s Lovers.” Instead of duplicating Brady and McWhorter in Section Four “Cast of Characters,” I would have presented the information in list form, such as “Tarzan’s Human Friends” “Tarzan’s Animal Friends” “Tarzan’s Foes” “Tarzan’s Side-Kicks” and so on and thus have created another interesting reading section like Ullery did in Section Three on the “Lost Cities.” The nature of a handbook is not to break new ground (which is most interesting to me) however, Ullery was on to something with his grouping of names by their relationship to Tarzan. In this section he thinks about the characters and makes observations, but they are tantalizingly brief. To me, one of the pluses of this book is the idea to write extended articles on each of Tarzan’s lovers, friends, foes, etc., thus rounding out the psychological portrait of a complex literary character.
Should you go out and buy it? Well, in my opinion that depends on whether you own Brady’s “Burroughs Cyclopaedia” or not. Brady is essential, but Ullery is definitely more fun. The pictures seem to be well-chosen, especially the many Krenkel’s from “Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins,” and the choicest of J. Allen St. John, which are eminently suitable to this child-like book. Don’t get me wrong. This is a magical book, which is why I see it as suitable for children, but it is really one for children of all ages. There ARE many things for scholars to appreciate, but the overall tone is one of presenting sheer enjoyment rather than a footnoted tome beleaguered into (the O, so essential) pauses and breaks of scholarship. Ullery tells us that this particular name comes from “Tarzan and the Lion Man” that from “Tarzan of the Apes” rather than resorting to abbreviations that make you page back and forth with Brady’s rather annoying numbered key.
I can see myself going back to this book again and again for information, so it is definitely a useful book that will repay its initial cost many times over. It is finding a place on my bookshelf right above my computer with the Brady, the McWhorter, the Zeuschner, the David Day “Bestiary” for ready reference. Above all, this book is without a doubt a great labor of love that warms the heart unlike any other book on Tarzan I have ever read. Ullery clearly loves Tarzan, and this alone is worth the price of admission. If I were a boy with a paper route that earned $5.00 a week, I would gladly work 9 weeks to own this book without hesitation. I AM grateful for this book; it’s a charmer that for the most part can be read from cover-to-cover, which is not the case of most handbooks. If this old man didn’t have it, I would buy it just for the warm feeling it radiates from every page.
The Fantastic Worlds of ERB #47
By David Adams
I’ll wager that everyone who would enjoy reading this magazine has not yet subscribed to it yet. I know that I have a number of ERB magazines that I intend on getting, but for one reason or another I put it off until tomorrow which is usually a place in never-never land. Anyway, if what I have to say below whets your appetite, send $23 to
77 Pembroke Road
Seven Kings, Ilford
It is really quite painless, and you’ll be glad you did.
I like looking at everything in Frank’s magazine, but being a meat and potatoes man (Ah, just meat now -- I’m on Dr. Adkin’s diet) I go for the big articles first.
Rod Jackson - In Search of The Outlaw: Part l: Norman of Torn (A yummy steak of an article.)
Roger butters - Was Jane the Only One? (An account of Tarzan’s other lovers)( A whole bottle of red wine.)
David Adams - The Jungle Tales of Tarzan: a Morphological Study Based Upon Vladimir Propp’s Structural Theory of Folktales (This is a big box of chocolates; very rich, so you can’t eat the whole thing at once.)
Arthur Stone - Tarzan & The Raptors (a pastiche) (Coffee)
Tony Phillips - Pellucidar Revisited, chapter 5 (a pastiche) (Havana cigar).
Ok, so there are scads of pictures and reviews, lots of letters & e-mails, loads of newspaper article reproductions. You get 32 BIG pages (what’s with this large paper in England?) Westwood’s magazine is definitely different to Americans. It’s not at all stuffy, but he does get letters from fans about misspelling words. There is always a very artistic layout with multiple fonts. No color, but it very carefully put together. Frank published some of my stuff early on, so I like to remember him when I have something especially tasty.
Burroughs Bulletin (New Series) #42
The Burroughs Bulletin is already half-way through its New Series featuring each of the ERB novels as a cover topic. This was and is a grand idea because it gives the editor, writers, and readers a focus of attention, although each issue of the BB is much more than this as you will see in this mini-review.
George T. McWhorter provides us with his Kaor and wonderful Bibliographer’s Corner as usual, providing all the publishing details of TARZAN AND THE LOST EMPIRE. This time he also gives us a brief, illustrated biography of Gil Kane 1926-2000, best known to ERB fans for his drawing of the Tarzan Sunday pages from 1979-1981, and for his dust jacket illustration for the first hard-back edition of “Beyond Thirty.” (An obituary in included from “The Los Angeles Times” sent in by Tracy Griffin.) McWhorter also wrote an interesting account of the unusual words found in ERB’s latest publication in “Bar Sinister: “Marcia of the Doorstep” Reviewed.
David A. Adams wrote a short pastiche ‘Fabulous Tales from a Papyrus Scroll: Tarzan and the Lost Empire” in which he demonstrates that the manuscript of Marcus Crispus Sanguinarius featured in this story is full of deceptions.
Robert R. Barrett in his “ERB and the Metropolitan Newspaper Service: Being an Account of “Tarzan and the Lost Empire” provides us a fascinating account of the author’s dealing with the newspaper syndication of his novels and this first publication of a book with Metropolitan. (TARZAN AND THE LOST EMPIRE was the first of four books published by this company). Barrett provides us with ERB’s Corrections to this book, which are very interesting indeed, and he promises to continue with these studies dealing with “Tanar of Pellucidar” in the next issue.
Mike Conran in his “Michigan Military Academy” gives an account of his journey to Orchard Lake School, which was formerly the Michigan Military Academy where ERB attended classes in the 1890’s. He give us a good deal of interesting history (along with 6 rare photos) and brings us up to date with the status of this institution which was so important to the future writer.
Tom Stock’s account of “Law and Justice in the Burroughs Canon” is an expert study of the subject by this writer-editor turned attorney. He sees ERB’s views of legal systems as being either superfluous or malevolent, however he goes on the explain the differences between the concepts of Law and Justice. Stock takes us on a journey to Barsoom, Amtor, and America (The Girls from Hollywood and The Girl from Farris’s) in an extremely detailed account of the various legal systems in ERB’s writings. He concludes with the point that ERB always exhibited a keen appreciation for the distinction between Law and Justice. “Ideally, Law is the means that should serve the ends of Justice.” ERB’s heroes act within a framework of moral rules and personal honor rather than any formal legal system. (There is a lot of food for thought here in these 9 pages that deserves a careful reading.)
Robert R. Barrett proves to be an able critic in his ‘Jungle Man! A Musical Comedy in Two Acts Based on ERB’s “Tarzan of the Apes.” This musical comedy spoof of Tarzan developed by Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop of Los Angeles and at Stages Festival by New Turners of Chicago was given its world premiere in Wichita, Kansas performed by Wichita’s Stage One in February 2000. It sounds like it would be a riot. (They must have premiered in Wichita because they knew the premiere ERB fan Bob Barrett lived there.)
Letters are printed from Graham Stone, Kurt S. Denkena, Tom Rookes, George Fahy, Joe Lukes, Alan Flach, Philip Jose Farmer, Camillo Moscati, Rev. Ray Gilliland, Dave Hoover, Robert R. Barrett, Tom Stock, and Gary W. Bryant.
I thought it was a nicely balanced issue with something for everyone. There are 36 numbered pages. The front cover is a color reproduction of the Armstrong W. Sperry first edition dust jacket. The back cover is a color repro of Frank Hoban’s first serial installment cover of Blue Book magazine.
(Nkima liked the Hoban picture best because he is pictured riding on Tarzan’s shoulder. He is not fond of the lion and leopard because they are trying to eat him, but he feels safe with Tarzan on the back of Tantor. That October 1928 painting is very nice indeed. You can read about Metropolitan’s struggles with the purple ink on the Sperry cover in Bob Barrett’s article. Oh, Foopus!)
As usual there are loads of pictures from the Louisville collection and an extremely detailed pen and ink Tarzan and Jane with a chimp by Rudy D. Nebres on the Picture Gallery page. This Tarzan is too Hercules-like for my taste, but the man is a master with the pen, no doubt about that.
I know I am just preaching to the choir in saying you should subscribe to the Burroughs Bulletin, but I feel it is necessary to write some sort of a review because someone has to recognize all the fine efforts that goes into producing the Burroughs Bulletin. Most of us see each publication as a high point of ERB reading enjoyment, and the fans do love you George, Bob, Joan, and Mitch. Keep up the good work!
June 9, 2000
“There was a loud twang as the released bolt shot into the dark heavens.”
J. Allen St. John illustration from Jungle Tales of Tarzan
Tarzan Rescues the Moon
Nkima (David Adams)
Copyright © 2000
"Comments on An illustration by Duane Adams"
On the last page of the last story of Jungle Tales of Tarzan, the youthful ape-man shoots a number of arrows at Goro, the moon. He imagines that it is being devoured by Numa, the lion, during a lunar eclipse, and he is indeed successful because Goro emerges from the belly of Numa after his determined “rescue.”
My brother, Duane, the Lion Man, chose to illustrate this scene in one of a series of colored pencil drawings he produced during the summer of 1997. This image was part of a series of illustrations he first offered to the public at the Newton, Iowa Dum-Dum.
I have had this picture in close view for three years now on the west wall of my ERB den. I’ve had time to live with it and my appreciation for this work has only grown over the years.
Duane has a knack for drawing a youthful Tarzan. Even his Tarzans that “should look older,” according to Tarzan’s age in the books, have a youthful body structure. I have never asked him if this is intentional. I take Duane's frequent refrain in the regard as a rendering of Tarzan’s eternal youth as seen by his spiritual eye. Of course, in the Jungle Tales drawing a youthful Tarzan is entirely appropriate, as these are tales of Tarzan's youth. Duane's image has a story-book quality that is quite charming and relevant.
The action of Duane Adams' Tarzan is frozen in a timeless moment. The ape-man has just released an arrow that is headed toward the moon.
The design of the picture is deceptively simple. There is a vertical Tarzan holding a vertical bow, however the overall composition is based upon many overlapping curves. There is the obvious curve of the bow and the curve of the moon that just disappears in the upper right corner, but there are also the larger curves of the two sections of green foliage that divides the sky from the water. There is also the large curve of the tree on the left of Tarzan and the many curves of the descending moonlight.
The artistic force of the arrow flying toward the moon is propelled by shimmering moonlight on the water that laps the shore at Tarzan’s feet, forming another V-shaped arrow with Tarzan’s vertical body. One might even say that it is the moonlight itself that draws the arrow upward.
This is a very powerful picture when viewed in the shadows. Tarzan stands illuminated by the moon, and his bow radiates in the same lustrous rays. All else looms out of the darkness very effectively the way trees and grasses do in a lunar glow. I have always enjoyed this picture in the deep shadows of my room illuminated by a single lamp. I don’t imagine this will come across in the internet picture, but you might get a copy of this picture from Duane and try the effect yourself.
August 22, 2000
ERBmania! editor's note: I am thrilled to have a numbered copy of Duane Adams' "Tarzan Rescues the Moon." Sadly, the scan above does not truly represent the subtle richness of the illustration. I don't know if Duane Adams has any reproductions available.
Tarzan and the Lost City
David A. Adams
Copyright © 1999
First of all, let me say I really liked this movie. Despite it’s shortcomings, it captured some fine Burroughsian moments, which made parts worth seeing, and I am certain to watch this film again.
The greatest problem with this Tarzan effort was the casting of Casper Van Dien as Tarzan. He has a fine physique, but his stature is simply too short to make him a totally believable ape-man. Despite his actions, which at times reminded me of a real Tarzan figure, I found myself fearing for his safety during much of the picture. He seemed so small and vulnerable that I was afraid he would not be up to defeating the very strong Steven Waddington, who played Nigel Ravens, the chief villain.
For me, the scenes in the caves below Opar were the strongest ones. The labyrinthian passages filled with traps were well conceived, and Tarzan’s slide down the tunnel only to land on his feet was a neat moment. Tarzan was also finally allowed a quick kill with his bow instead of simply ducking bullets.
Van Dien seemed too good-looking to me, His full, sensuous lips could not convey the thin-lipped. grim smile I expect in the ape-man. He always seemed like a man playing the role of a Bomba or a Bunduki to me - - someone like Tarzan, but always coming up short (pun intended). In short (sorry about that) he was not convincing as a man who had been raised by apes. Oh, he “Hoo Hooed” a little bit, but I could never picture him as a man who could kill a lion with his hunting knife alone. And those big, baby-blues were just too much for me. I guess I would have preferred a keener, piercing look that could make a lion think twice about attacking.
I liked the quick glimpses we had of the mangani. They were ugly brutes, not the charming, fuzzy gorillas we saw in the Disney Tarzan version. Of course, Greystoke did the ape scenes better than anyone else, so mercifully, these were played behind leaves and branches.
I thought Jane March was fine as Jane. She was dark and sensual, shorter than Van Dien, but not by much. Still, I could never picture Tarzan sweeping her up into her arms and managing to swing through the trees at the same time. There was some attraction between Tarzan and Jane but never the sparks that sprang between Johnny and Maureen. However, no couple will ever again play with that magic electricity in a Tarzan movie.
Jane was tough and feisty, shooting that long-barreled pistol and slapping everyone around, although she did scream at the sight of snakes a lot. And if Tarzan was so quick, why did he let the cobra bite him instead of simply grabbing it by the head or chopping its head off with his knife the way he did a second later? O well, he did the noble thing by saving Jane.
The director had Van Dien wear that stupid shirt way too long into the jungle scenes. I can’t imagine the reason for that other than perhaps he wanted to have Tarzan gradually revert to a state of savagery.
Mugambi was a shaker and mover in this film. I didn’t even mind the magical transformations so much, as most of them could be explained as a sort of African motif. The scene with the bees was acceptable; even the bones becoming warriors played all right by me. However, the climax with the lightning in Opar left me wondering, “What was that all about?” Ravens played a trick on little Van Dien by offering him his hand, then pulling him forward into a stone wall. (You can see why I worried about this Tarzan.) Tarzan follows him and the arch villain does an Indiana Jones bit by melting into a skeleton. Ah, that’s it?
I’ve only watched this movie once, so I will look for all the good scenes at a later viewing. Tarzan running carrying his bow caught my attention. The swinging on ropes was just acceptable.
This Tarzan never seemed close to his jungle or his animals. He was kind of dumped off a river boat there and rode the mandatory elephant a little. The scenes with the chimpanzee was a tribute to the Weissmuller pictures, but they should have been left out entirely. (Nkima is always embarrassed by chimps.) I think a guy who wants to play Tarzan should have to live with a monkey for at least a year before any filming begins. He should at least like animals.
The music by Christopher Franke had it’s fine moments. The drumming was pretty good, but Greystoke was better in this category as well, especially in the use of Elgar.
In conclusion, this was a good effort at a jungle movie with a little guy who pretended to be Tarzan. To me, it was as good an effort as one might expect in the face of the giants who have played the ape-man in the past. Johnny Weissmuller is still Tarzan in my book; I loved Greystoke. (“Ooh, Ooh. Ooh - - Rawaaa!) Disney did Tarzan moving through the trees better than any human ever will, but Van Dien should not be ashamed. Mugambi gave him a cool, leather loin cloth and great weapons.
Walt Disney’s Tarzan CD:
by Phil Collins and Mark Mancina
A Review by
David A. Adams
Copyright © 1999
At first, I had some misgivings over this production. I felt that the five songs Phil Collins wrote for Disney’s Tarzan were not singable enough to gain the popular recognition that other Disney scores of the past had received. Even “You’ll Be in My Heart” seemed a slight effort to me compared with Elton John’s wonderful “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” written for “The Lion King.” Yet, by the fourth listening, I can see the great possibilities for this song, especially in the version sung by Phil Collins. Now I am anxious to get the piano-vocal score so I can use this song with my children at school. If this movie grabs the kids the way “The Lion King” did, they will have the lyrics down pat by the time school begins. I would have liked to have heard a simple piano-vocal arrangement on the ballad with Phil instead of the soaring Hollywood unison strings in the background, but the guitar work at the beginning of the song shows the possibilities of an effective simpler arrangement.
I think the difference with “Tarzan” is the fact that the songs were not written for the characters to sing with the exception of “You’ll Be in My Heart.” As background music to enhance the action on the screen, they are all fitting and in most cases very powerful, especially due to the spectacular percussion employed in the arrangements.
Without a doubt it is “Son of Man” that is the rocker that will grab everyone right from the start. I liked this one very much the very first time I heard it. It has just the right drive to be popular, and it reminds me of some of the best gospel-rock tunes. The title and lyrics will not be lost to Christian-rock singers: “Son of Man, look to the sky/Lift your spirit, set it free” and “In learning you will teach/And in teaching you will learn.” Phil may not have been reaching out to this market, but it is certainly fitting.
“Two Worlds” is also a strong “message” song: “Put your faith in what you most believe in.” It’s a wonder song praising the family, love, and a simple life. The message is what the Tarzan movie is all about, and the lyrics reach way beyond the Tarzan story itself. For all the seeming complexity of the drumming, Phil and Mark kept the patterns easy enough for my high school rock-oriented trap set players.
“Trashin’ the Camp” is cute. The version with ‘N Sync” is the better of the two versions presented.
I felt that “Strangers Like You” was the weakest of the five songs when I give them a personal ranking, but it too is an effective one. Phil even said on his live tv broadcast that it was the first time that this one was being played before a live audience. The enthusiasm behind the music, and Phil’s great singing pulls it through for me in the end.
The orchestral arrangements of incidental music, which take up four of the fourteen tracks on this CD, are for the most part good ones, although the reviewer in People magazine crabbed at the filler space these seem to be taking up, and the fact that many of the “versions” of the 5 tunes seemed to be similar was also a bone of contention. I personally would have enjoyed hearing more of Mancina’s arrangements.
Mark Mancina is very skillful in his orchestrations. Especially notable is his use of the flute, along with some other nice woodwind and French horn passages with the strings. Again, the percussion is very effectively employed, which is a hallmark of this Disney Tarzan CD. His scores sound thematic with Phil’s songs although I’m not exactly sure why this is so because he rarely employ the tunes directly, except in his “One Family” arrangement. Some of the percussion licks are the same, so perhaps he used them as thematic links. Mark’s melodic patterns remind me of Bruckner at times because he rarely allows his melodies to come completely forward in their entirely. “A Wondrous Place” is his lush production number. In some ways I like it better than anything else on the disk. Also notable is Mark’s “One Family” score with the tune played simply on the electric piano along with “You’ll be in My Heart,” It’s the sure tear-jerker on the album, especially after seeing how the songs work with the pictures on the screen. Perhaps someday he will write a lengthy suite of his pieces like Aaron Copland did for some of his production efforts. This could be very effective played by a Pops Orchestra.
This disk has a close presence and a professional clarity of voicing of instruments that is admirable. The production is top-notch. It makes my (ADD) “Dances with Wolves” CD sound muddy in comparison.
Of course, it is Phil’s soaring tenor voice that pulls everything together. He has written some very powerful songs, but in the final analysis it is “You’ll Be in My Heart” that will be up for the Oscar nomination because it is the one tune that anyone can remember and sing after a few hearings.
The Tarzan “yodel” at the end of the CD is cute and it perfectly catches the Disney Tarzan spirit of the entire effort.
The Dark Heart of Time:
A Tarzan Novel
A Review of Philip Jose Farmer's novel by
David A. Adams
Copyright © 1999
We have been given a great gift. It is one that gives great pleasure because it comes from the heart of a lover to other lovers, and this is a blessing that makes life worth living.
The Dark Heart of Time by Philip Jose Farmer is a work that comes out of a rich heritage. Although the author is best known for his other works of imaginative fiction, it is certain that it is Tarzan who lies at the core of his secret soul.
We have the long record of accomplishments from Mr. Farmer to read and savor beyond his World of Tiers, Riverworld, Dayworld and the two amazing Opar books. There is A Feast Unknown (1969) Lord of the Trees & The Mad Goblin (1970) featuring Lord Grandrith, Lord Tyger (1970) the wonderful Time’s Last Gift (1972) and The Adventures of the Peerless Peer (1974). All of these would have been enough to place Tarzan in a unique pantheon of Tarzan pastiches, yet we have more and nearly all in Tarzan Alive (1972) the unsurpassable biography of Tarzan himself.
Now we have been given this final gift of love and homage.
Farmer is an intimate with Tarzan of the Apes. Very few men in the world can claim that fact. He actually met the man and talked with him. He trembled in the presence, so we can be certain that his source is unimpeachable.
I must confess that I have been looking forward to this new Tarzan novel for a long time. Its fate was uncertain from the beginning and its course was a rocky one, yet today it lies before us in all its glory.
Farmer’s Tarzan is not exactly Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, but no one really expects him to come back from the grave to write another story. Farmer’s Tarzan was always his own Tarzan in each of his former manifestations, yet his ape-man has always been a revealing expansion of the man, sometimes a daring expansion. Some readers have felt that Farmer went too far in some of the earlier novels, that the sexual exploits were too graphic, too bizarre, and yet he never ranged beyond the plausible even in his more comic representations.
I have enjoyed every one of Farmer’s Tarzans, each for different reasons, but most of all I admired the author for his depth of thinking about a character who meant so much to me throughout my entire life. Farmer always comes to Tarzan with passion and intensity, and that is the factor that makes his accounts read like none other. They read like a truth stranger than fiction, which is a very Burroughsian trait.
Farmer’s Tarzan is more savage than ERB’s, at least he is free to write about the ape-man in ways that were denied to his first author by the conventions of the time. His Tarzan is a true feral man who frightens us with his steady gaze that holds the threat of an inhuman violence. Burroughs talks about the beast-man and describes his acts that makes other characters standing by in the novels shudder. Farmer has the power to make his readers shudder in the presence of a Tarzan-Jad-Guru, a Tarzan the Terrible. There is no aesthetic distance in his telling a story. We are there with Tarzan in the blood-streaked trees.
Burroughs too had the ability to let us in on Tarzan’s secret life. Yet with ERB we can put ourselves into the character and feel comfortable with the savage life. This was his great storytelling gift, one that made us feel one with the ape-man no matter how young we might be. With Farmer things are on a different footing. The ape-man ranges beyond our puny efforts to understand him. He is, as Farmer notes at the end of chapter two, “a species by himself.”
The Dark Heart of Time was suggested to Farmer by an undeveloped incident left by Burroughs in chapter seven his Tarzan the Untamed. In that novel, Tarzan upon his quest for Jane, who has been abducted by Lieutenant Erich Obergatz from his bungalow in East Africa and carried into the Belgian Congo, had arrived at the bottom of an eighth terrible canyon where he made a mysterious discovery. ERB himself paused in wonder at the sight.
“...as Tarzan came nearer he saw the bleached skull and bones of a human being about which were remnants of clothing and articles of equipment that, as he examined them, filled with ape-man with curiosity to such an extent that for a time he forgot his own predicament in contemplation of the remarkable story suggested by these mute evidences of a tragedy of a time long past.”
Burroughs gave his readers these whitened bones, a helmet of hammered brass and a corroded breastplate of steel, along with a long, straight sword in its scabbard and an ancient harquebus. There were several buckles scattered about suggesting that a great part of the mysterious man’s trappings had been of leather, and most curious of all, a metal cylinder about eight inches long and two inches in diameter. Within the cylinder Tarzan discovered a roll of parchment with old Spanish lettering and a map. Tarzan slipped the cylinder into his quiver, but Burroughs never again mentioned it, perhaps intending to pick up the threads of this story himself someday. Or, more likely, it was just one of those loose ends that he forgot about since he was a prolific writer never at a loss for new themes for his novels.
The idea to write this story had been on Farmer’s mind for a long time. In his Tarzan Alive he notes, “During the two years’ search for Jane, he (Tarzan) had found himself in the neighborhood indicated on the map by the bones of the sixteenth-century Spaniard. Since a scholar had translated for him the old Spanish writing, he knew what to look for. Unfortunately, we don’t know about this adventure. While I could easily make up a story to fill the gap, I am sticking strictly to biographical facts.”
Given Farmer’s penchant for connecting the biographies of fictional characters, I had expected to find Don Quixote in The Dark Heart of Time since he was the most famous of literary sixteenth century Spanish soldiers. It seems that Farmer chose rather to link this Tarzan adventure in a more personal way (at least spiritually if not thematically) to his great Riverworld series.
There is a cataclysmic drive in The Dark Heart of Time that begins with tremors in the ground that eventually spread into earth-shattering quakes and the releasing of great underground rivers that sweep everyone and everything before it. Much of the novel takes place in raging thunderstorms, and from chapter thirteen onwards Tarzan and his companions are buffeted and thrown by water so much that they seem to spend as much time drowning as they do breathing the air. The lost worlds that Farmer creates for his story are cities and people shaken by gigantic and inexorable tremors and floods. Tarzan himself is a man thrown and washed by an angry Nature that seems determined to swallow him whole. In the final chapters Tarzan literally comes forth from the throat of the beast.
If much of the novel seems like a world coming apart at the seams, it is the individual episodes of escape that make this novel sing like the Burroughs of old. Farmer knows Tarzan well, and he gives us some unmatched scenes of Tarzanic prowess that will without a doubt delight his fans. I mention especially the escape from the iron ball and chain, the escape from the pit, and the incredible escape from the swinging platforms.
The journey down river reminds us of Riverworld, but then traveling on the water with a forlorn companion must at least tangentially recall Huckleberry Finn, especially since Rahb’s pregnant wife is held captive like Tarzan’s own. I don’t intend to draw any more comparisons to Twain since the river journey might just as well suggest Conrad’s Heart of Darkness given the title of the book and the dark dealings in the Congo.
Of the characters, besides Tarzan, who is impeccably drawn, Ben-go-utor is the one who is given the most flesh (perhaps I should say “fur”). His persona runs from one of unnamed terror to sympathetic companion to tragic creature. He is a memorable creation, one that can be loved by the reader for his story of steadfastness in the face of eventual extinction. Tarzan who does not bond easily with anyone seems to like him, and it sometimes seems sad when he reminds him again and again that he will have to free Jane first before helping him in his plight.
The bard, Waganero, who also travels the great, raging river with Rahb and Tarzan, is more of an enigma. He carries his harp throughout the journey, but we are never permitted to hear him sing. He is left behind with Rahb in the final earthquake that destroyed both the true and the false City Made by God. Perhaps he was still weeping at the end of his life over his failure to sing for the deliverance of his Lutsu from the belly of The Ghost Frog.
The villains, Helmson and Fitzpagel are of the usual Burroughsian type, driven respectively by overwhelming greed and a mad desire for revenge. They are not ones to be greatly hated by the reader since they too are buffeted and driven by the tremendous forces of Nature that propel this novel even more than the human characters.
In The Dark Heart of Time as in his Riverworld Series, Farmer propounds mystery upon mystery. Some readers may be put off by his solutions to these mysteries since they involve references to extraterrestrial beings “from the land beyond the clouds, beyond the skies, beyond the sun. They were not human, yet they were not spirits. Nevertheless, they begat children by humans. And Rafmana is descended from them.” Most readers of the Tarzan novels prefer to keep this character’s adventures and his bare feet firmly planted on the ground.
The theme of immortality is a underground current that drives the plot of the novel. Rafmana, who is another descendant in a long line from H. Rider Haggard’s “She,” is immortal, along with Tarzan himself. James D. Stonecraft, who bears some resemblance to John D. Rockefeller senior, (1839-1937) wants to become immortal, which is the hook that Farmer uses to begin a mad chase to capture the ape-man that continues throughout the story.
I hesitate to rank this novel in Farmer’s already secure pantheon of Tarzan stories because I treasure so highly this gift from Farmer’s late pen. I hope it will please the fans of ERB’s Tarzan; my commentary has tried to place it in some perspective that will aid its enthusiastic acceptance. This is possibly Farmer’s last great Tarzan novel, and I treasure it as a grand effort that adds a lost adventure to the biography of the ape-man in a wonderful way. Mr. Farmer has been an intimate of Tarzan for a long time, and like his happy phrase that describes Tarzan’s own senses, we are here in the presence of an “immaculate perception.”
David Arthur Adams (Nkima)
June 11, 1999
Nkima's Review of TARZAN FOREVER: The Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Creator of Tarzan by John Taliaferro
Copyright © 1999
David A. Adams
To the fans of the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs this is the publishing event of the year. There has not been a biography of ERB on the market since the massive 819 page edition by Irwin Porges in 1975. The Porges work, which remains definitive, was preceded by the uneven Robert W. Fenton’s Burroughs biography, “The Big Swingers” of 1967, and by a very fine study of all Burroughs’ works by Richard A. Lupoff, “ERB: Master of Adventure” in 1965.
The importance of Taliaferro’s new work will certainly be the fact that it is the only Burroughs biography in print, and with the renewed public interest in Tarzan due to the Disney animated “Tarzan” it may gain a wider reading than any of the previous books. To this reviewer this will be an unfortunate fact because the Porges is more balanced and complete and remains the definitive work on ERB.
Taliaferro points out in his “Acknowledgements and Bibliographical Notes” that he had access to the so called, “Porges Papers” at the Burroughs Memorial Collection at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Of course, these are all materials that Porges himself had available for his own work. Taliaferro probably made extensive use of this gold mine of information, however, he chose not to “flag every reference” due to the fact that “so much of the information used herein is from the Porges Papers.” Thus, we have in Taliaferro a work that reads more smoothly than the oftimes scattered Porges, but we are left in doubt to specific sources he is quoting. Unfortunately, this leaves many things in Taliaferro’s work questionable to the Burroughs scholar.
Taliaferro’s habit of incorporating the works of others into his text without acknowledgements with footnotes makes for a clean, flowing story that is admirable to the casual reader. He must be given credit for mentioning the many people and books he used in his research (and he seems to have covered all the bases from Atamian to Zeuschner) yet some of the things that will raise eyebrows of the fans of ERB demand a more careful documentation.
The dust jacket blurb notes that John Taliaferro has been senior editor at Newsweek and Texas Monthly. His writing style is lucid, and his knowledge of history is extensive, so he places ERB’s life in its proper historical context with a sure expertise. This is a biography of the man rather than a study of the man and his works, although each of the writings are given brief commentary along a very careful timeline. In fact, the strongest feature of Taliaferro’s book is this splendidly organized presentation of life and works that is so often difficult to follow in Porges.
The most controversial part of Tarzan Forever is the fact that it was written with an underlying theme of what Taliaferro sees as Burroughs’ radical views on eugenics. He presents this idea in the very first chapter and continues to expand the theme throughout the work, always comparing ERB’s views with those of Adolf Hitler. The conclusions he draws are clear and forceful and will undoubtedly be very offensive to the fans of ERB. This unfortunate aberration on the part of the author marks this biography with the sign of Cain, and along with his acceptance of Burroughs as a racist, it is difficult to imagine a more inflammatory way to write a biography of any American writer. The most unfortunate thing about this work is the fact that it will be the only one in print when the Disney movie arrives this summer. It’s a shame that all of the old racist flack may be flying again and a double shame that Burroughs will now be linked with Adolf Hitler as well.
This reviewer is saddened by this new biography. It could have been a fine one, but it is likely to do more damage to Burroughs’ reputation than anything previously written. Despite the wealth of facts and figures on ERB’s life, Tarzan Forever is a depressing book. ERB is pictured as a flawed man without much self-esteem who struggled through a writing career, producing one potboiler after another for money alone. Even so, the story of Burroughs’ life is told with verve and at times with real affection. Not a stone goes unturned, no matter what the biographer finds underneath the heavy weight.
There are so many good things to be said about Tarzan Forever: it is so well-written; it clears up much of the publishing and personal history, but in the end it is an odd, Jekyll and Hyde performance. Taliaferro seems to actually like Burroughs at times, yet he makes his odious comparisons and is for the most part content to give the stories short shift, seeing Burroughs as a rather bemused hack writer of pulp fiction who happened to lead an extraordinary life.
Tarzan Forever is “must reading” for the avid Burroughs fan, but because of the unsavory conclusions drawn in the areas of racism and it’s over-enthusiastic eugenic ramblings, it will be forever damned by true lovers of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
March 28, 1999
Tick & Toc Talk:
A Review of Tarzan and The Tarzan Twins and The Golden Lion
by David Adams
My name is Tick. I have black hair, and I was the hero of our first story called The Tarzan Twins.
Hi! I’m Toc. I got top billing in the second one with the longer title.
Aw, you’re such a show off, always doing those silly magic tricks. Only a cannibal would be fooled by them. Say! How did you get to be so good with a bow and arrow in a few days anyway?
Well, smarty pants, I saved your butt didn’t I?
Golly Gee, Toc, Volland wouldn’t let me do anything neat like killing natives. They had their stupid “non-gruesome” code to uphold.
Ha! That’s why I waited for Whitman to come along. They let me rack up kills, even keeping score. I even got to pull out the bloody arrows and use them over again.
OK, Ok, let’s get down to our real business here.
Telling our real stories to the Edgar Rice Burroughs fans, blockhead.
I knew that. You always get to have the good answers to life’s conundrums!
Yeah, except in the second story - - the one with the really big title. And keep it down to simple words. This is a children’s story. No more big words like crumb-bums.
Share and share alike, I always say.
Fair enough, dear look-alike. Now, let’s get down to the facts.
I’m gonna start all over again. My name is Tock - - I mean it’s Tick. Oh, shucks, you’ve got me all confused by your constant blabbing. I’m the dark-haired English boy who doesn’t like to talk because I do all my smiling inside. My father is distantly related to Lord Greystoke, Tarzan of the Apes. We are called The Tarzan Twins, but we are not really twins, although we look like twins. You see, our mother’s are twins, which is why look so much alike. We’re really cousins, but ERB was so fond of having look-alikes in his stories that he called us twins even though we are not.
Why didn’t Burroughs just make us real twins?
Who knows? His editors wondered about that too. Anyway, we look alike like two peas in a pod except for our hair.
Yeah, I’m Toc, the light-haired one. Tick led me around the jungle in our first story, so ERB gave me my chance to shine in the second one while Tick had to run around with a girl!
Hey, we were captured by 20 frightful men. Anyway, there weren’t any silly girls in my story.
OK, we we each had a chance to play Tarzan.
Yeah, but you got to kill natives by the bushel basket.
I thought you were telling our stories.
OK, enough recriminations. I’ll tell it the way I see it, Toc, and you correct me if you think I’m wrong. It all began when Tarzan took us out to the jungle for a romp with Jad-bal-ja, the golden lion.
And you were afraid of him.
So were you, smarty. Just let me tell this story.
OK, but I’m here to keep everything straight.
Anyway, Tarzan left us alone in the jungle to investigate a strange smell, but he left Jad behind to guard us. We didn’t really feel comfortable with a wild lion around, so we climbed up a tree.
Yeah, two trees. Then a hurricane came along and almost blew us to kingdom come. When it was over we swang through the trees leaving Jad behind, and we got lost like in the first story.
Yeah, and Tarzan couldn’t find us because the spoor scent was washed away by the storm.
So there we were again, two poor little kids lost in the jungle.
That’s when we saw the 20 hideous men, and your girl-friend.
She wasn’t my girl-friend! I was just being noble, helping her and all.
Can I tell the story my way? You know, I’ve always wondered how you knew there were exactly 20 frightful men. Did you count them?
Of course, just like I counted my arrows.
Yeah, but you seemed to know there were 20 of them from the beginning.
I’m observant, and I use both my fingers and toes to count.
Anyway - - we followed Gulm and Blk and Ulp and the rest of the uglys to see if we could rescue the girl. We never really knew their names, but Ed made up those goofy ones when he wrote the story down. They were sort of like the 20 hideous dwarfs with Snow White dragged along as a hostage.
Only they were bigger than dwarfs and had big gorilla teeth.
Yeah, really bad news. And the 20 big gorilla-men were real religious. All together their I.Q.’s added up to minus two, but they were experts in Flaming God theology. Real fanatics that bunch. They were all priests or wanna-be priests who got kicked out of Opar by La when Cadj was wiped out.
I never really understood that religion. It was an odd one - - they had to sacrifice someone so the sun would come up again or something like that.
Yeah, I think that’s about right. Only a woman or a girl could make the sacrifice by stabbing some poor devil in the heart just as the sun came up.
It doesn’t seem to have much future as a viable religion. I mean, where are the socially acceptable qualities? Where are the sound moral teachings to hold a society together?
They didn’t need all of that junk. They were just a bunch of half-men, half-apes who followed a good-looking dame because they were too degenerated to do anything else.
It still seems odd to me that all these guys thought about was religion. They must have been fundamentalists.
I can’t explain it. Burroughs had them discussing theology day and night. They didn’t seem to have room for anything else in their lives.
So they had captured this girl . . .
Yeah. She happened to be the daughter of a missionary, so she was a good candidate for a religious cult. Her name was Gretchen, a real nice German girl, but the frightful men called her Kla, which meant something like new La. They were traveling to a place to build a new temple and were planning to force her to be the high priestess.
Well, that’s what Burroughs said anyway. I always kind of thought they might have had some weird sexual intentions about her.
Yeah, that’s the real reason I wanted to save her.
You wanted her for yourself?
No, ninny, there is no sex in ERB stories, just the threat of “a fate worse than death.” This is a children’s story, so you don’t even get that.
So you go off with the girl, and . . .
We were captured together!
OK, I remember that.
So we finally get to the place where the new temple will be built.
You forgot how I killed all those guys one by one, picking off the last one in line with my bow and arrow.
OK, so you were following and cleaning up the mess we were in. Finally, we got to the place, and I found out that they were going to force her to kill me with some kind of a stone dagger. I was to be the first sacrifice of this weirdo Flaming God splinter group.
Then Tarzan came with Jad-bal-ja.
Yep. Deus ex machina like most of the late Tarzan stories.
Showing off your classical education?
Yeah, like Burroughs.
Any apple pie at the end of the story?
No, but Krenkel has a picture of a rhino at the end of the Canaveral edition.
What’s the rhino for? There weren’t any in the story.
Who knows, but I kind of like it. It makes about as much sense as anything else that happened. And another thing. You said that the frightful men who were running away from Jad “went so fast you could have played checkers on their coat tails.” What exactly did you mean by that statement?
I never said it. Burroughs just threw it in for some kind of effect.
I thought so.
I’m glad there wasn’t a sequel.
That goes for both of us.
I kinda like the old guy though.
Crazy old duffer.
Why’d ya say that?
I dunno, but he was a crazy old guy anyway.
Yeah, kind of like us - Tick and Toc.
Twins and we don’t even have the same mother.
October 25, 1998