Friday, September 01, 2006

Happy Birthday, Edgar Rice Burroughs!

It would be impossible to overestimate the influence ERB had on me. I still have four or five of the Grossett & Dunlap reprints of the Tarzan novels that my cousins gave me back in the long, long ago. I later discovered John Carter in, of all places, comic books, so I had to go back and read the novels, which I liked even better than the Tarzan series. Naturally the Tarzan movies were a big part of my childhood, starting with the ones featuring Johnny Weismuller and moving on to Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, and many others.

American novelist, creator of the world famous character of Tarzan, one of the indispensable icons of popular culture. Burroughs also published science fiction and crime novels, some 26 books dealt with the Apeman. Critics have considered Burroughs's fiction often crudely written and chauvinist. His books, however, are still widely read and usually more interesting than the films. It is true that Burroughs often portrayed Africans, Arabs or Asians as evil or comic, but the stories also contain several elements that have kept them 'politically correct': Waziri warriors are brave, and his cave girls Nadara and Dejah Thoris, the princesses of Mars, are courageous and resourceful characters.
"As the body rolled to the ground Tarzan of the Apes placed his foot upon the neck of his lifelong enemy, and raising his eyes to the full moon threw back his fierce young head and voiced the wild and terrible cry of his people." (from Tarzan of the Apes, 1914 )

1 comment:

Richard said...

Burroughs uses extremely sophisticated story-telling methods for his era, like cross-cutting for suspense. He'll follow Tarzan up to a turning point in the story, then back up in time, shift angle and show the same event from the point of view of the pursuing villain. Burroughs will keep three or four clusters of characters whirling through the jungle, following them each in turn, having them cross paths, confront and re-group; I can't think of another pulp author during the Wilson Administration to use this narrative approach in so complex a manner. If D.W. Griffith hadn't stated so loudly that he learned about cross-cutting from Shakespeare and Dickens, I'd suspect that he was an avid ERB fan.