January 31, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessmen Of Mars
The Taxidermist Of Mars
While reading through the autobiography of Ian Whitcomb (see my review) who himself was depressed I came across an explanation of the cause of depresseion that explains much of ERB and actually world history, here on Earth and up on the Mars of ERB.
Whitcomb quotes a psychologist whose name I can’t rembember who explained the cause of depression as the result of the failure of expectations to meet reality. So, let’s talk about depresseion for a little while. We’ll feel better for it.
Somewhere in the first decade of the twentieth century ERB remarked of his life: It wasn’t supposed to be this way. How was it supposed to be? Well, one of three favorite books of ERB was the Prince And The Pauper by Mark Twain. ERB read it six or seven times by the time he wrote this book. Twain was himself depressed as is apparent from any of his writings, not least being Huckleberry Finn. In a wonderful description of failed expectations Twain gave an acurate analysis in his great story Puddinhead Wilson. Wilson’s life was blasted by one bad joke. ERB read that story too which made a lasting impression.
In Prince, of course, the young Prince exchanges places with a Pauper then has a very difficult time reclaiming his place in society. ERB obviously felt that this too was his story. He was born into a life of comparative luxury being coddled by his brothers if not his parents then being displaced, probably when his father removed him from Brown School in the sixth grade setting him on an unsettled course of many schools.
A cardinal sign of his depression was when on his way to Idaho in 1898 he met an old army buddy in Denver. The pair got drunk, hired a band and marched behind it down the main street of Denver, a desperate attempt at aggrandizement. Thus figuratively the Pauper posed as the Prince. Then in the throes of poverty a few years later in a cri de coeur ERB exclaimed: It wasn’t meant to be like this.
Perhaps at that time he hit a low deciding he had better do something about it. If so, his writing career began to unfold. Here ERB was a raging success- of sorts. That is to say that he was a commercial success but a critical failure. Thus, in a manner of speaking he received the monetary rewards of his success but not the critical substance he craved.
He was a somebody yet if everyone didn’t shun him neither would they accept him at his own valuation.
Then, as if to realize his wildest fantasies he migrated to Los Angeles where he bought a fantastic estate- the dream of a lifetime. It might seem that his expectations had become reality. Not so easy. He had bit off more than he could chew. Tarzana was not only an estate but a country at least the size of San Marino. Anyone who has collected stamps will recognize that one. ERB even got it its own post office. Didn’t issue any Tarzana stamps though.
Just as through his own mismanagement he was losing the dream of Tarzana he suffered cruel critical rejection because of The Chessmen Of Mars. Thus all his expectations were crumpled by the juggernaut of reality. Enough to throw anyone into a deep hole. And so having abandoned the land of Bantoom Gahan, a Burroughs Animus substitute, Tara, an Anima surrogate and Ghek the Kaldane arrive at the gates of another lost city, that of Manator.
This novel is essentially a tale of two cities- Bantoom and Manator. Is it possible that Bantoom represents Chicago and Manator L.A.? It’s a thought.
Perhaps Ghek, the all-brain, represents the ERB who uses his brain to become a writer while the Rykor of Ghek represents ERB’s idyllic physical life on the ranch. This aspect or character as of 1921 properly belongs to Chicago where his writing career began and flowered. Arriving at Mantor or LA ERB begins another career but as yet his further writing is a thing of the future so it can’t figure into this story, hence Ghek ceases to be a leading character and becomes subsidiary comic relief, something like Nigger Jim in Twains’ Huckleberry Finn.
ERB might easily have made Ghek a much more central character in this half of the book with his ability to roam Manator at will unseen and unnoticed. After having created the network of paths leading from the pits to every room in Manator, curiously ERB fails to exploit the opportunities.
The key to the Manator story becomes I-Gos as would Ras Thavas, The Mastermind O f Mars, another mad scientist figure who would be created in 1925. Just as Ras Thavas would deal with the living, I-Gos lives among the dead. Excellent depression image. What an opportunity ERB missed by not calling the Taxidermist I-Gor. He would have captured the very essence and reality of the B movie for all time except for one letter.
I-Gos clearly designates Chessmen a novel of depression. What a terrible job. Who wouldn’t be depressed? I-Gos even works in the lowest depths of the pits of Manator. So far down that he’s lost in the structural psychology of the brain stem. The brain stem is where all those horrible fixations reside, that unconscious of Freud that directs and misdirects our conscious acts; that overwhelms our conscious will and negates our best intentions.
Now, amazingly, this is just how ERB portrays his story. It isn’t necessary for ERB to be conscious here of what he is actually portraying. One can sense a condition without consciously understanding it. One’s fixations are upper most in our minds and we talk of them constantly not being aware of what we are actually talking about.
ERB describes the results of his encounter with John the Bully on the street corner on the way to school at the moment when Gahan and Tara are standing in the the lowest protion of the pits with I-Gos surrounded by the corpses the Great Taxidermist is working on. In memory all is dead among the walking the shadows of the past.
At this point Anima and Animus, Psyche and Eros, are together. I-Gos tells Gahan that he wants him to get something from a storeroom. He lures Gahan into the room then slams the door locking Gahan away. Psychologically this means that one has been isolated from the rest of the world in one’s fixation. I-Gos then goes back to violate Tara, or the Anima, of ERB. She’s a real tigress in ERB’s dreams unlike in real life. She slips a little steel between I-Gos’ ribs. Then fleeing she is captured by the Jeddak O-Tar’s men, that’s Rat spelled backward, and carried off.
At this point Gahan/ERB is isolated, trapped and out of sight of man and god so to speak. In other words ERB was psychologically cut off from society. He could no longer interact with his fellows. So what choice is left for ERB? He must break out of his isolation.
Gahan/ERB finds a heavy axe with which to attack the door made of heavy skeel wood. Working like a berserker Gahan attacks the door. Resting frequently to recruit his strength he finally makes an opening only big enough to just squeeze through. Having done so he finds I-Gos lying on the floor as though dead with no sign of Tara. So how are we to interpret this?
Based on the evidence it would appear that in his confrontation with John the Bully something like this may have happened although in real life his Anima had abandoned him passively. ERB doesn’t relate all the details just the key one’s for his conscious mind. It can’t be proven that he was with Emma at the time but suppose he was. We know for a fact that he was confronted by a young Irish thug of twelve who terrorized him. Three years younger at nine ERB may have been transfixed by terror but Emma kept on walking leaving him to his fate. Hence he, the Animus was separated from his Anima now represented by Emma with whom he developed a love hate relationship. This would accoount for his fixation on Emma and possibly hers on him. This would also give a firm basis for his love-hate relationship that expressed itself as total hatred for her upon her death.
ERB always writes about his experiences. So taking my exposition a little out of sequence Gahan is separated from Tara for a period of time. This might represent the period from sixth grade until ERB and Emma’s marriage. So now, O-Tar near the end of the novel is enamored of Tara/Emma and proposes to force himself on her. Thus O-Tar is equivalent to Frank Martin. Gahan as in real life ERB with Emma, gets Tara/Emma away from O-Tar/Martin and marries Tara/Emma himself.
So, once again ERB tells the story of A. John the Bully and B. His struggle for Emma with Frank Martin. Thus ERB’s depression is linked with his marriage.
ERB terminates the story at this point, his winning of the girl; the reuniting of Pyche and Eros.
But back in the pits of Manator Gahan/ERB has to struggle with his depression and try to overturn his confrontation with John the Bully.
So, let us now backtrack and survey the setting of Manator as Gahan, Tara and Ghek land and Gahan enters the city. At this point the story may represent ERB’s own reception in Los Angeles.
January 21, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessmen Of Mars
Nobody Gets Out Of Bantoom Alive!
Tara descends in the land of Bantoom ruled by the Kaldanes. I think the Kaldanes can be traced to Baum’s Emerald City Of Oz. In that title Baum writes of a queen who when she wished to change her hair style selected one from a number of heads, removed the head she’s wearing and places a new head on her shoulders.
Unlike the queen the heads of the Kaldanes and the bodies of the Rykors are separate entities.
The Kaldanes exist independently of the Rykors but mount their shoulders to use them essentially as slaves. When their purpose is satisfied they abandon the Rykors or bodies that then, without directing intelligence, just lie or flop around like the proverbial chicken.
The picture ERB presents of them through the first vision of them by Tara is fairly repulsive. It would by itself explain why the Post and the other slicks rejected the story.
Either I’m reading things into the story or ERB is making some very subtle examinations of certain problems troubling society. The three issues I have noted concern labor, sex and evolution.
To take the first.
In the world there are many forms of disagreeable labor that people would rather not do. Much of the industrial labor is hot, dirty and heavy with a lot of unpleasant bending and stooping. Still the job has to get done.
In England once the so-called Industrial Revolution ethos first took place a very large percentage of the work force was essentially bestialized to work the mines and factories, especially the women and children. This is an unightly and unpleasant situation.
In the US and colonial areas African slaves were imported to do the stoop labor. It should be noted as Michael Hoffman points out in his studies that White slavery preceded that of Black slavery. Even at the time of the American Revolution Hoffman found many White slaves still existing the US. A White man was sold to a Negro in Chicago in the 1840s for tweny-five cents.. Africans only gradually replaced the Whites. Thus just preceding Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin after which African slavery exploded there were White slaves in the US.
Slavery is inseparable from Burroughs’ works. He can’t imagine a society without slaves. Chessmen opens explaining the relationship between Tara and her personal slave girl.
Slavery was abandoned in the US at about the same time serfdom was abolished in Europe. The Russian serfs which you can read as slaves were liberated only as the US’ own civil war was being fought. While industrial slavery is too distant in the past for us to imagine it slavery was a very recent phenomenon to Burroughs. He read. He must have been aware of Russia in which the vast majority of the population were slaves as serfs, hence Russia was up to 1861 a vast slaveocracy no different than the US South.
The question then was how to get the hard work done without slaves. The industrial system of the time merely left the population nominally free while paying very low wages making the bulk of the population actual wage slaves.
The hard labor was definitely nothing anyone who could avoid it wanted to do so the industrialists imported vast numbers of laborers at a liguistic disadvantage who then had no choice but to become wage slaves. Burroughs, very sensitive to social issues then, may have thought he was only reflecting the existing situation in his stories. After all this is the period of the horrors of the sweat shops.
This problem preoccupied society so that in 1931 a mere ten years after Chessmen Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World that presents a different solution than ERB’s. Huxley presents a world of test tube babies in which certain poisons are placed in tubes to create chemically altered humans. The least intelligent of these were the Gammas who were given the least desirable jobs on that basis that they wouldn’t have the brains to complain.
Burroughs solution is somewhat different. The Rykors are essentially slaves; as Greek mythology put it the Rykors were mere bellies with arms and legs, lacking any intelligence whatever they were unable to complain and being deaf, dumb and blind couldn’t revolt.
The slave driver was the Kaldane on their shoulder who directed the Rykor in the unpleasant tasks without consequences to himself. When the Kaldanes came back from the fields at night they abandoned their Rykors and went about their business of thinking, fresh and without fatigue.
Thus ERB has very cleverly solved the problem of stoop labor- the labor the Kaldanes wouldn’t do.
ERB also gives himself room to toy with the idea of sex. He models Bantoom after a beehive which was a common device at the time. He changes the sexual primacy by making Luud a kingbee rather than a queen bee. All the Kaldanes have been hatched from eggs laid by King Bee Luud so Luud is truly the ‘father of his country.’ The jokes are there. Whether ERB was a sly old dog or whether he just wrote this stuff with no humor prepense is up to the reader to decide. Either he was intending humor or else he was naturally one of the funniest men alive.
It seems that all Kaldanes were male while the Rykors were either male or female. Thus any Kaldane could choose to be a man or woman for the day. This may possibly refer back to Greek mythology where Teiresias was the only person who had been both a man and a woman. He was then called on to say who got more sexual pleasure men or women. He thought women definitely. Any Kaldane could have answered as well.
ERB plays with the idea briefly but doesn’t take it too far. As far as the slicks were probably concerned he had so many strikes against him they didn’t even want to look at him. Given their attitude it even seems remarkable that the pulps paid good money for the story. This is really pretty strange stuff and it keeps getting stranger. ERB just skirts the accusation of a deranged mind in this story. Times have changed, of course.
Then there is the matter of the evolution of intelligence. This is a perennial topic in science fiction. At the presentt time the ultimate intellect is usually portrayed a as giant head on a spindly unathletic body incapable of much but feeding itself.
At the time it was thought that the mind and body were two separate things. In the fifties when I grew up wrestling with the idea Burroughs’ key Martian novels were available from G&D but I never read them. I was scandalized that Burroughs would write anything but Tarzan novels. It didn’t seem right to me that he would write anything else.
So, Burroughs tackles the mind/body relationship by completely separating brain and body. These brains were anaerobic, they could exist without oxygen. This was by design because when the oxygen plant will have failed and Mars changed from a dying planet to a dead one the Kaldanes were going to retire deep into the mars and live out their existence thinking. Bye bye Rykors.
ERB explains this quite succinctly. Evolution on Mars:
You do not understand…It is too big for you to grasp, but I will try to explain it. Barssom, the moons, the sun, the stars were created for a single purpose. From the beginning of time Nature has labored arduously toward the consummation of this purpose. At the very beginning things existed with life, but no brain. Gradually rudimentary nervous systems and miniscule brains evolved. Evolution proceeded. The brains became larger and more powerful. In us you see the highest development; but there are those of us who believe that there is yet another step- that some time in the far future our race shall develop into the super thing- just brain. The incubus of legs and chelae and vital organs will be removed. The future Kaldane will be nothing but a great brain. Deaf, dumb and blind it will be sealed in a great, wonderful, beautiful brain with nothing to distract it from eternal thought.
Right. I saw the movie. It was called Hitler’s Brain and it was a great one. Burroughs always seems to have figured out the entire B movie and sci-fi catalog. If I didn’t know better, and I don’t, I’d think his writings have been cribbed for the movies from his day to this. Burroughs is surely one of the most influential intellects from his time to the present. He is a baffling phenomenon, no one wants to give him credit but theyuse his ideas constantly.
The passage quoted is a fair synopsis of the course of evolution while dealing with a debating topic of his day and ours.
It’s quite clear ERB put everything he had into this effort.
Having landed in a Bantoom that might be compared to Baum’s Land of the Munchkins, although a rather disquieting comparison. Baum is actually a very strange writer. the Shaggy Man Of Oz left me very uneasy. I remember as a child a woman lamenting the book because she thought it would make it easy for weird old men to lure little girls away. The book was weird as was The Emeral City Of Oz. Burroughs takes weirdness a stride or two beyond those books. There’s always this uneasy quasi-pornographic feel behind his stories.
Tara is baffled by the overseer Kaldanes and slave Rykors working in the field. She waits until nightfall to go in search of food coming very close to the hive. Burroughs will develop this image shortly in Tarzan And The Ant Men. Night falls and the Banths come out. Tara can’t understand why these Martian lions are so plentiful in the valley. Shortly she will learn the reason is that the Kaldanes throw the dead and worn out Rykors into the fields for the Banths. It’s just gruesome little details like this that probably got ERB his reputation for being too far on the edge. Doesn’t bother us though, does it?
Now, a Banth steals up on Tara but God is on her side, she’s got a head start for the ubiquitous tree. Here we have two ambivalent images in Burroughs. Tree and lions are symbols of both safety or danger.
On the one hand Burroughs finds comfort and safety in trees, most conspicuously in the Tarzan stories. There all Africa with the exception of some lands deep in the Sahara is covered by one giant forest with conviently low branches unlike the picture we see of Baobobs and whatever. Tarzan is at home in the trees moving faster and with more ease than you and I trudging along on the ground.
If there’s danger in the lower terrace Tarzan moves up to the middle terrace or even the upper terraces where the little monkeys play. If he has a quarrel with Jane he has favorite trees in which to spend the night. He is sometimes treed as he was in Tarzan At The Earth’s Core. Here Tara is treed in a close replica to the treeing of Schneider in Tarzan The Untamed.
In that story Tarzan took Schneider to an enclosed natural bowl with a creek trickling into a cave. In the center was lone tree and a hungry lion. Tarzan viciously placed Schneider in the tree. It was up to Schneider to evade the cat when thirsty finding his way back up the tree in a game of cat and mouse.
Burroughs replicates the scene here. Tara drinks from the stream then being chased up the tree by the Banth who keeps watch till morning before stalking away.
So here the tree is both safety and a trap. Perhaps as ERB’s financial troubles developed he felt like Schneider so he replicated the situation with Tara as himself.
Martian rosy fingered Dawn appears. In trying to get back to her flier Tara is captured by the Kaldanes. The episode of her capture is well done as she discovers the secret of the Kaldanes and Rykors. Her captor is a Kaldane named Ghek who is to become a principal actor in the story.
Tara’s descent into the hive gives Burroughs time to philosophize and ruminate before Tara is taken up to her near brush with a fate worse than death at the hands of the Rykor of Luud.
At the beginning of Chapter VI ERB ruminates on the rough treatment given him by the literary mavens:
What the creature had told her gave Tara of Helium food for thought. She had been taught that every created thing fulfilled some useful purpose and she tried conscientiously to discover just what was the rightful place of the kaldanes in the universal scheme of things. She knew it must have its place but what that place was it was beyond her to conceive. She had to give it up. They recalled to her mind a little group of people in Helium who had foresworn the pleasures of life in the pursuit of knowledge. They were rather patronizing in their relations with those whom they thought not so intellectual. They considered themselves quite superior. She smiled at the recollections of a remark her father had once made concerning them, to the effect that if one of them ever dropped his egotism and broke it it would take a week to fumigate Helium.
It appears that ERB is smarting from the rejection of the literary types even though he longed for their approval. ERB himself chose not to parade his knowledge as literary types are wont to do, not that I would ever do that myself, while ERB can claim to be well read while profound enough in his writing and observations.
Eugenics, for instance, was under attack from its origins although widely accepted at this time. There is something offensive about it to the human spirit while the notion would certainly be socially abused if given free rein. ERB cleverly skirts the issue here while affirming the benefical results that could be achieved. Following the above quote he notes the superb physical condition of the Rykors and says that they had been bred to perfection. In other words they are the product of eugenics the same as thoroughbred horses or pedigreed cats and dogs. Being bodies without minds, in other words not complete humans, anyone who caught it probably took no offense. The closer you get the better ERB looks.
In the descent into the hive Tara idly hums an air which completely charms Ghek who asks what the noise is that Tara is making. She then sings for him which overwhelms Ghek’s senses thereby definitely preserving her life. Impervious to female beauty Ghek is transported by music. Universal language you know.
This will figure into the story soon. Tara is expected to fatten up to make a good meal for the Kaldanes who fatten up certain Rykors to make a good lunch. Thus ERB interjects the ever present theme of cannibalism. Away from the air and sunshine Tara is pining away so she pleads to be allowed to go outside. Luud grants this. Tara tries to escape, is caught and taken to Luud to meet her fate which encounter follows shortly.
Gahan in his pursuit of Tara had fallen from his flier into the arms of the storm. This is interesting. Always heroic he was trying to rescue a companion who was caught in mooring lines flapping beneath the flier. In the effort the wind catches a line with a heavy buckle at the end giving Gahan/Burroughs the obligatory bash between the eyes. He loses his hold but rather than plunging directly to mars the wind catches him like a leaf carrying him along with it. Then after a series of ups and downs gently deposits him on the crimson sward.
Impossible you say? No, it is not. ERB refers to a story he had read somewhere at sometime in which a baby caught up by tornado had been carried miles from its home and deposited gently on the ground unhurt where it was found. These things all sound preposterous; they have happened.
In a clever handling of time differentials while Tara was going through her travails that lasted weeks Gahan at almost the same time Tara landed in Bantoom picked himself up from the sward hundreds of miles away and began walking in the direction he hoped was toward Gathol. Thus weeks later he arrives in Bantoom at the precise moment to observe Tara’s escape attempt. Not bad.
Not only that but having decided to rescue the Red Woman he didn’t then recognize he discovers the flier, kills a Banth or two and drifts, no propeller, directly over the wall of Luud encountering Ghek who fretting for his life agrees to take him to Tara on condition that he can leave with them. No problem.
As they are making this deal Tara is struggling to preserve her…oh…integrity. Luud has set his headless but magnificently built Rykor on her while always a voyeur, he watches.
Luud has a powerful mind. He has not hypnotized Tara but is able to control his brainless Rykor while not being attached. This means that by remote control he is able to connect to the spinal nerve ending of the Rykor. Good stunt.
Gahan and Ghek enter just as the Rykor is poised for the downward thrust. ERB comes close here.
Gahan is warned to avoid eye contact but fails to do so becoming hypnotized. Hypnosis is a significant theme in Burroughs’ work. In this case he seems to be influenced by George Du Maurier’s novel Trilby with its great character Svengali. In that story the heroine has no musical talent but Svengali is able to hypnotize her into becoming a second Jenny Lind. The key point is that while Trilby is singing Svengali must make eye contact from his theatre box. When contact was broken Trilby immediately began croaking not knowing a note from a hat box.
ERB does a reverse variation here. It become apparent that Gahan is entranced by Luud and all is lost. But in holding Gahan Luud had to relax his hold on his Rykor who went limp (no pun intended) releasing Tara. The quick minded Tara knowing the hold her singing had on Ghek immediately bursts into full throated song trilling out that wonderful old Martian standard- The Song Of Love.
Thus ERB reverses the Trilby/Svengali scenario. Tara’s singing dissolves Luud’s hold on Gahan and it’s all over for Luud.
An exciting chase scene and battle and the three comaradoes are drifting off to meet another fate in another freak city. This one is called Manator.
The Bantoom story thus becomes a preliminary tale to the main story.
January 15, 2009
Dark As Dungeon Way Down In A Mind
We’re on a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat
Going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street.
My correspondent replied to my post Bob Dylan The Reactionary. An excerpt:
Poetry is a funny thing: it bypasses the cerebral when it is best IMHO…Poetry is nonsense, making the nonsense of mortality a bit more bearable for a moment in time.
I suppose that’s a valid reflection. There has been some debate as to whether song lyrics are poetry. In a lyric’s effort to condense experience into the fewest possible words my own thinking is that they are of the essence of poetry whether or not one considers them ‘true poetry.’
I certainly carry innumerable song lyrics around in my head while very little ‘true poetry’ has had the same effect on me. A great many of the lyrics are Country and Western and what passed for Folk. I find references in Dylan of the same importance of favorites that I have.
I recently ran Hank Snow’s Ninety Miles An Hour Down A Dead End Street on Rhapsody and was surprised to discover that Dylan had actually recorded a heavily edited version as a religious gospel dirge. Don’t get the connection but if Dylan says so…
The part of the lyric that has always struck me the most forcefully is the line: We’re on a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street. I apply the line to all kinds of situations including the present political quagmire. Dylan seems to emphasize the illicit love affair. Doesn’t really matter, the point is that that little piece of ephemera had a profound influence on us. Dylan resurrected the song fifty years on while I use the image that appealed to me in my writing frequently. Poetry? Well, I think maybe.
There are a couple of other country classics that live in my mind by Merle Travis: Dark As A Dungeon Way Down In A Mine and Nine Pound Hammer. I always imagined those were folk songs dating back to the 1880s or something but Travis wrote as late as 1947. The relevant quotes for me:
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in a mine
Where the wind never blows, and the sun never shines,
Where the dangers are double and the pleasures are few.
Roll on buddy, don’t you roll so slow,
Tell me, how can I roll when the wheels won’t go.
This nine pound hammer is a little too heavy
For my size, boys, for my size.
The first quote is from Dungeon, the latter from Nine Pound Hammer.
For myself I always gave the lyrics a psychological twist saying ‘mind’ for mine. Roll on buddy referred to my habitual procrastination, psychological blockage preventing action. Had problems. Solved ‘em. Are these songs poetry? They are in my mind. I make all kinds of things out of them even the innocuous line:
It’s a long way to Harlan,
It’s a long way to Hazard,
Just to get a little brew. boys,
Just to get a little brew.
I’m not thinking of booze either as in ‘My Buckets Got A Hole In It.’ Can’t buy no beer.
I’m sure Dylan cherishes both those songs. They’re the classics that people in the know know. They don’t call us cognoscenti for nothing. Roll on buddy…
As a last example before I get to the gist of this thing is the song ‘Grand Coulee Dam written by Woody Guthrie a man I really despise- damn it. But talent will out and while I have my prejudices I’m no bigot. For me this lyric is as poetic as you can get.
Well, the world holds seven wonders that the travelers always tell,
Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well,
But now the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam’s fair land,
It’s the great Columbia River and the big Grand Coulee Dam.
She heads up the Canadian Rockies where the rippling waters glide,
Comes a-roaring down the canyon to meet the salty tide,
Of the wide Pacific Ocean where the sun sets in the West
And the big Grand Coulee country in the land I love the best.
Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of thirty-three,
For the farmer and the factory hand and for all of you and me,
He said, “Roll along, Columbia, you can ramble to the sea,
But river, while you’re rambling, you can do some work for me.”
Now in Washington and Oregon you can hear the factories hum,
Making chrome and making manganese and bright aluminum,
And there roars the Flying Fortress now to fight for Uncle Sam,
Spawned upon the King Columbia past the Big Grand Coulee Dam.
In the misty crystal glitter of that wild and windward spray,
Men have fought the pounding waters and met a watery grave,
Well she tore their boats to splinters but she gave men dreams to dream
Of the day the Coulee Dam would cross that wild and wasted stream.
Nice stuff from my point of view. Doesn’t get any better than that. The song gave me dreams to dream. If you want to hear the best rendition ever by Lonnie Donegan click this:
My verdict is that good lyrics are good poetry while bad poetry doesn’t necessarily make a good lyric.
Now as to the lyrics to Highwater by Dylan that my correspondent referred me to that I discussed in the post: Bob Dylan The Reactionary.
As the lyric touched my correspondent’s psychology I tackled the lyric from a different angle as the way I was interpreting it may not have reflected his. For all I know this doesn’t either but I think it’s interesting.
The lyric in question:
Well, George Lewis told the Englishman, the Italian and the Jew
You can’t open up your mind, boys, to
every conceivable point of view
They got Charles Darwin trapped out on Highway 5
Judge says to the high sheriff, I want him dead or alive
Either one, I don’t care
The format Dylan uses here is that of the genre of old jokes that begins something like this: A Protestant, a Catholic and a Jew… then moves on to the punchline. Dylan’s presentation can be interpreted as flip so he is probably thinking of the verse as a joke.
As I said in my previous post George Lewis represents a Black, the Englishman as Science or Darwin, the Italian Catholicism or Christianity and the Jew Judaism. Four different conceivable views that can’t be held simultaneously no matter how open you think your mind is.
These are four crucial irreconcilable conflicts in Dylan’s mind while they probably represent the major psychological dilemma of most White or Jewish people.
The problem is especially acute for Dylan who was indoctrinated into Jewish Lubavitcher beliefs for his Bar Mitzvah while having
been brought up from infancy on Hillbilly music, Country if you prefer, which is quintessential Christian music whether sung in church or honky-tonk. Those good old boys live with their religion even when they’re robbing banks so even with0ut going to church Dylan has a strong Christian background. He did sing a sexual anthem like Ninety Miles An Hour as a hymn. Ponder that for a minute.
So Dylan has had to reconcile his dual religious beliefs seeming to have come down on the side of his Lubavitcher Judaism which is no surprise. He then has to do something about his religious vs. scientific or evolutionary beliefs. Darwin doesn’t go with Judaism. He centers the problem on Darwin as Science. Here he has made the decision to imprison or kill Evolutionary beliefs. Dead or Alive, either way, Judge says, he don’t care. Having eliminated Science and Christianity we have Judasim and the Blacks on the racial issue. Dylan has subordinated himself to the Blacks on the racial issue and is willing to take the inferior position. While he believes he has resolved these for him difficult problems they still trouble him or he wouldn’t be talking about them. Strange.
Why did my correspondent associate me with the verse? He says: Just thought of you and the line(s) for some reason. My correspondent seems to be wrestling with Dylan’s problem himself. As I have written on all four topics fairly extensively and I know the correspondent has read lots of my stuff I suppose the lines suggested me. The song isn’t good poetry and not even good lyrics but if it succeeded at least on my correspondent’s level one would have to concede that lyrics are poetry. The better the lyric the better the poetry. And now for a little circular logic: The better the poetry the better the lyric.
January 14, 2009
Bob Dylan The Reactionary
As I say I haven’t listened to anything by Dylan since ’66. Not exactly true, I have listened to and watched a couple of newer items on You Tube or wherever but I hope I won’t be judged too harshly on account of a chance listening like that.
What I mean to say is a correspondent sent me a quote from a song called Highwater- for Charlie Patton.
I’m more clear now on why I haven’t listened to later Dylan because I didn’t think the song was very good. The Poet Laureate of Rock can surely do better than that. The song was from an album called Love and Theft. I’m not sure which half of the equation this song represents.
As the quote has religious overtones perhaps my correspondent was reacting to the recent examination of Dylan’s religious attitudes in the movie by Joel or perhaps to some religious essays on Dylan I’ve written like for instance, Lubavitcher Bob. Beyond that I don’t know what he could have meant.
From the lyrics it looks like Dylan takes himself quite seriously as a man in black. I thought the lyrics were pretty nonsensical as represented by these three lines:
Well, the cuckoo is a pretty bird, she warbles as she flies
I’m preachin’ the word of G-d, I’m puttin’ out your eyes
I asked Fat Nancy for somethin’ t’ eat
Well, I’m not going to struggle too hard to unravel the deep inner meaning of those lines, let Charlie do it, but I am taking Dylan literally on the middle one. As a man in black he is preachin’ some word anyway- G-d, the D-vil or somewhere in between. Not always easy t’ tell.
But back t’ the quote my correspondent sent that does have probable religious overtones. Since it’s expressed so cryptically of course, it’s all deniable:
Well, George Lewis told the Englishman, the Italian and the Jew
You can’t open your mind, boys,
to every conceivable point of view.
They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway 5
Judge says to the high sheriff, I want him dead or alive.
Either way, I don’t care.
In this song of unlimited non-sequiturs this verse can almost be read to make sense.
In the next verse which may make it related, or perhaps not, Dylan says he’s a preacherman so we’ll assume Dylan is speaking Biblically. He is a Bible scholar you know as well as a Lubavitcher. Dylan always blazes new trails, don’t he?
OK. I don’t know who George Lewis is supposed to be. There’s a couple Black musicians by that name so let’s assume a Black man is ‘tellin’ the Englishman, Italian and Jew what’s what. Nobody can believe three things at one time so the wise thing would be to bet on the Jew if you want to win, win, win. That last is a parody on a line or two from the old folk song Stewball for those who didn’t recognize it. I almost didn’t.
We will assume that Darwin and Evolution are meant by the Englishman, the Pope and Catholicism by the Italian while the Jew needs no explanation. Might be Dylan, I don’t know. Two, Pope and Jew, are religious while Darwin is Scientific and his science demolishes religion. “The King takes the Queen every time’ to quote a new folk song by Larry Hosford. So the Pope and Jew are out to get Darwin in order to preserve their folly. Thus they have Darwin trapped out on Highway 5. Why 5? Why not 61? Dylan must have been cruising the highway from LA to Seattle at the time looked out the window of the bus saw a sign saying I5 so he said ‘That rhymes’ and put it in.
Dylan trapped on Highway 5 is filler so to the Judge i.e. Biblical authority tells the high sheriff- high sheriff sounds real wild west, don’t it, I knowed you’d think so- he wants Evolution/Darwin brought in dead or alive. OK. So as Dylan believes that the Bible is literally true and the veritable word of G-d proceeding from his own lips then it follows that Dylan is anti-Evolution and Darwin. Must be or we’ve got ourselves a contradiction here. Dylan is thus first cousin to William Jennings Bryan who persecuted Scopes way down there in Tennessee where they make that sippin’ whiskey. Hence Dylan is a reactionary rejecting the truth, as Woody Allen would say, for G-d.
Well, brav-, but a big raspberry for B-b if that is what he meant. Who can say? It’s poetry. Of sorts. A bigger raspberry for my c-rresp-ndent who should learn to say what he means without pinching his heroe’s words.
Highwater everywhere. He’s a drowning man.
January 13, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessmen Of Mars
The Dance Of Barsoom
See Post I for Intro.
The twenties were a difficult financial period for ERB, indeed, as was the rest of his life to be. The substantial sums he had made in Chicago were spent before he left. ERB had saved nothing. He arrived in LA with no other resources than his current income. That income was very substantial by any measure but unequal to ERB’s massive spending capabilities so that at the time he wrote Chessmen he was already strapped for cash and headed for deep debt.
Always envious of the fabulous sums paid Zane Grey by the slick magazines ERB wanted to sell this story for ten thousand dollars to one of the big slicks. There were no takers so that the story went to the pulps for thirty-five hundred. Adding insult to injury he was told that the stories were too preposterous to be considered.
Part of ERB’s literary problem was that genre categories were not yet well developed. H.G. Wells’ early sci-fi efforts were labeled Fantasias, a term that could be understood by the literary arbiters, while still considered what we would call today, literary fiction. Even George Du Maurier’s trilogy of essentially science fiction novels- Peter Ibbetson, Trilby and The Martian have never been considered anything but literary fiction. They are three terrific stories of psychological dissociation while it would seem certain that Burroughs read them and was probably influenced by them. I can heartily recommend them. Very choice.
So the genres were taking shape at the period but had not yet evolved as they would during the thirties, forties and fifties until today fantasy, horror and sci-fi dominate the fiction best seller lists. If Chessmen was thought preposterous in 1920 one wonders what his critics would have thought of such movies as The Exterminator or The Predator. God, those people were so awkward and unevolved. Well, it’s the price you pay for being an innovator. Remember what the Pope told Galileo.
So, ERB was stuck in the pulps. Perhaps smarting from this rejection ERB would try to break out of his pulp rate with several realistic novels. the first was The Girl From Hollywood, a very decent attempt at a literary novel, that ERB’s long time publisher refused to publish. Following in the burro tracks of Zane Grey ERB wrote a couple of Westerns only one of which he could get published at the time. I read a lot of Westerns in the fifties while a kid. I thought ERB’s efforts were as good as what I read then. They’re all potboilers, even the so-called classics.
He even attempted a couple of Indian epics that I found so-so but I know other people who liked them a lot. Not so critical as myself, I guess. Oh, right, he couldn’t get Marcia Of The Doorstep published either. So he was type cast as a sci-fi/fantasy writer. At least he knew he could do that very well.
Zane Grey wrote some pretty strange Westerns. He himself was quite a womanizer and his novels pander quite successfully to the distaff side. He knew women well. Probably that was why he was paid those great prices by the Saturday Evening Post et al. Oh heck, ERB was just too outre for the Post.
In Chessmen ERB gives feminine appeal his best shot. I would imagine he was trying to reach the ladies when he describes Tara’s fabulous bath. Either that or he was trying to titillate us boys. Worked with me. But let’s assume he was trying to broaden his appeal as the title was offered to the slicks.
Chessmen was based on his three favorite novels as are all his books- The Viginian, Prince And The Pauper and Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Thus Tara teases Papa John as her ‘Virginian.’ We are then introduced to Gahan of far Gathol. ERB presents him first in his princely guise as, indeed, he is a prince of Gathol. ERB chooses to present him as a fop dressed all in diamonds and platinum. Tara forms an ill impression of him as she thinks no real fighting man would dress in such a fashion. Shortly Gahan will exchange his dress duds for the plain leather gear of the Martian mercenary thus changing from prince to pauper. Of course he will resume his role of Prince by novel’s end.
Fauntleroy was born to the manor in England but spent his youth learning what it meant to be a real American boy before reassuming his English title. Ah, American dreaming.
Recalling his battle for Emma’s favors with Frank Martin Tara has been betrothed since at least young girlhood to Djor Kantos whose father is friends with the family. So like ERB Gahan has to overcome this parental resistance. Speaking of Frank Martin Chessmen is the only novel I can recall in which the hero doesn’t get bashed on the head two or three times.
At the ball being given Djor Kantos fails to claim Tara in time for the first dance so that Gahan leads Tara in the Dance Of Barsoom. Some sort of Grand March. ERB explains that before Barsoomian youths can attend balls they have to first have learned three formal dances- The Dance Of Barsoom, that of their country and that of their city. After that they can take up stuff like the Martian equivalents of the Grizzly Bear, Bunny Hug, Charleston and Black Bottom. Kids being kids on Barsoom the same as on Jasoom.
While the concept is quite charming one wonders of the source. Burroughs himself was no slouch concerning the hit parade.
I think we can trace the rigamarole back to the patron saint of old timey music, Henry Ford.
Amongst all his many other enterprises Henry was revolted by the music and dances of the Jazz Age as the twenties are sometimes known. Even though his very own flivver is billed as being responsible for some new objectionable habits and traditions Henry clung stubbornly to the old. Thus in full revolt against the Jazz Age Henry was promoting the dances and music of his youthof around, oh say, 1880 or so.
Ford had begun his publication of the Dearborn Independent in 1920 making him a newspaper man also. It seems clear from internal references in Marcia Of The Doorstep that ERB was following developments in the Independent. He would then certainly have learned of the evils of the new music and the virtues of the old.
Just as Henry Ford was trying to rivive the old dances on Jasoom, on conservative, behind the times Barsoom Jazz has never even been given a chance. The Dance Of Barsoom is just as fresh and lovely as the first time it was danced millennia before. Martian kids didn’t mess with tradition so much so Gahan led Tara in that lovely old relic of Mars- The Dance Of Barsoom.
Pledging his love during the dance Gahan was sternly rebuffed by Tara.
The preliminaries finished the story begins in earnest.
The following day Tara is fascinated by a cloudy stormy sky which is such a rare occurrence on Mars that she had never seen one before. As I mentioned in the intro ERB borrows the next sequence from Baum whose Dorothy was wafted to Oz on a tornado. Tara ascends into this tornado like storm where her flier is caught by the winds and she is driven before them. When she lands she had been driven like Dorothy to Oz to a far land that has been all but forgotten if it had ever been thought of.
The hero and heroine of Chessmen are Tara of Helium and Gahan of far Gathol, or rather, they are the Anima and Animus of ERB. ERB always writes Anima and Animus novels. As dreamers will he may have recognized the X chromosome or Anima in the green pastures of his sleep or, it is quite possible that as a Latin scholar at Chicago’s Harvard School he was required to read the myth of Psyche and Eros from Apuleius’ The Golden Ass. I only mention a couple of possibilities. He may or may not have been familiar with Psyche and Eros but he was certainly familiar with the fairy tales derived from it such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
While Apuleius is given credit for the story his version is certainly only a redaction of the tale or philosophical speculation dating much further back in history. The Ancients were well familiar with the concept of both the male and female versions of the Anima and Animus. In popular mythology the male chromosome is represented by the Goddess as X chromosome and the Bull as the y. The female is represented by the two snakes as in the pictorial representations of Crete. It will also be remembered that the Greeks imported Cretan priests to manage the Apollonian shrine at Delphi.
The myth is that the two aspects were once united then driven apart wandering the world in search of each other. Duly at long last they do find each other are reconciled and allowed by the Goddess of Love to reunite. Thus the stories of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty evolved from Psyche and Eros and who knows how many other stories besides those of Burroughs.
The question is was Burroughs only following a plot line, a pattern he had absorbed or was he consciously aware of what he was doing? Had he thought the problem out? Just as Tarzan and Jane were apparently mismatched in Burroughs’ dreamscapes so were ERB and Emma in real life. In Tarzan And The Golden Lion Tarzan and Jane had no sooner returned home from Pal-ul-don than Tarzan fled to his Anima in far off dreamland Opar leaving Jane/Emma to more or less shift for herself in a very dangerous world. Misfortune usually hit her too.
In ERB’s dream couple of John Carter and Dejah Thoris the Anima and Animus seem to be united although we see little of Dejah Thoris in the series and not at all in this novel. Even their son who may represent ERB is not present at all. Even with Carter and Dejah Thoris the classic separation and reuniting form a major part of the Martian Trilogy.
In this dream tale with Tara and Gahan ERB follows the classic formula- separation, the long pursuit and final reconciliation. He appears to know what he is talking about but since he never discussed his ideas on the subject we can only infer that he did or doubt or deny that he did. The psychological motifs he expresses throughout Chessmen leads me to believe he did.
What are dreams and what is a dream story? Freud originated the rational approach to dream interpretation. ERB gave some thought to the problem. Once can’t be sure he had read Freud’s Interpretations Of Dreams although in his short story Tarzan’s First Nightmare ERB used elements contained in Freud’s theory to explain the causes of Tarzan’s nightmare. At the very least we can say that dreams and nightmares from which ERB suffered all his life were of great interest to him. In the thirties he would buy at least one book on scientific dream interpretation.
What is the basis of dreams? It can only be experiences combined with memory. That’s it. Think about it. You don’t have to look any further. Nothing mysterious about them. The basic problem can be expressed in the question of what is the unconscious or subconscious. Is it some ultra mysterious process of the mind that can’t be penetrated, understood or accurately located? Is it as Freud believed an organ independent of the body and mind yet which somehow controls the actions of the individual from outside him? Or, once again, is it merely a combination of experience and memory, a faculty for interpeting the experiences of the day?
Freud touched on a key concept when he realized that the mind, which never rests, processes the incidents of the previous day in the sleeping and dreaming state. Burroughs also takes this approach in Tarzan’s nightmare whether he picked it up from Freud, Sweetser or realized it himself.
In point of fact experience happens to us so rapidly and from so many angles at the same time that it is impossible for the conscious mind to process it all as it is happening. Can’t be done. So, it follows that the subconscious or back up mind retains, as it were, photographs of the day’s activities that it reviews in sleep for either discarding, repression or action. How many times have you awakened with possible solutions to problems facing you?
The problem with the subconscious mind is that analysis of situations is affected by fixations, more expecially by the central childhood fixation. Childhood is that perilous time of life when the inexperienced mind is subject to being presented with challenges for which it has no programmed or immediately adequate response. Defeated in analysis the challenge is encrypted and encysted in the subconscious where it interprets all similar challenges through the lens of the defeated challenge and response. Thus all those strange compulsive behaviors we have.
As it chances we know Burroughs’ central childhood fixation. That was when he was eight or nine and he was challenged on a street corner on the way to school by a twelve year old Irish bully. Terrified ERB broke and ran apparently thereafter branded as a coward. Thus the central theme of his work is fight or flight and the state of cowardice. He examines the matter endlessly throughout the entire body of his work. These elements are all especially prominent in Chessmen.
We know that ERB was stressed to the breaking point as he wrote in 1921. Whenever he was stressed his personality fragmented, splitting at least once. In Chessmen the Kaldanes are two separate entities, the physical Rykors and the mental Kaldanes. Tara and Gahan, the ritual Burroughs’ surrogates are driven apart by the terrific storm.
This is a dream story abounding in dream images. One can provide an analysis of the storm scene based on the incidents occurring in ERB’s life at the time.
The image presented to us is of this very rare Martian storm of very high winds as in a tornado. Tara although warned against it takes her flier up. Perhaps ERB was warned against buying Tarzana, I would certainly think that Emma was at the least apprehensive. Tara navigates well beneath the clouds but wants to be in a cloud where she has never been before, i.e. Burroughs buys Tarzana. Here she is buffeted about so to escape she rises above the cloud or storm where the winds abate. But she has to get back down so she must reenter the storm. She is then taken by the winds tumbled head over heels by their extreme violence arriving half dead in the land of the Kaldanes.
Now, how does this represnet ERB’s actual situation in dream images.
ERB left Chicago under one presumes, sunny skies. His original intent was to buy twenty acres to raise hogs. Instead he bought over five hundred acres. He then began a massive building and improvement program with what appears to have been a substantial payroll and a not very well thought out plan. He overspent his income so that by 1921 his bills must have been greater than his income forcing him to borrow. He found he had neither the skills nor the talent bo be a ‘Gentleman Farmer’ so that he was forced to auction off most of his tools, implements and livestock in an effort to raise money and cut expenses. Also at this time his sources of income came under attack as the movies refused to film his intellectual properties while his royalties also came under attack.
In what I consider a purely defensive move he was forced to incorporate himself assigning all his income, copyrights and what not to the corporation in an effort to secure the means of his livelihood by putting his income beyond the reach of his creditors. In what I consider a questionable move he subsequently transferred a portion of Tarzana to the corporation. So, shortly after this storm broke on his head he became merely an employee of his corporation.
At the time he wrote Chessmen then he was caught in the turbulence of this storm he had created. Unable to get back down as with Tara he tried to rise above it in some way but was forced back into the problem where he was being blown along head over heels no longer in control of his affairs.
In the relative calm of 1924 he wrote Marcia Of The Doorstep that chronicles and looks back at this period.
Tara’s flight then is ERB’s day to day situation presented in dream images.
The rest of the book deals with past and present in a series of dream images to which we proceed.
January 7, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessman Of Mars
Porges speaks quite highly of this story and I think him right. The story is a quite complex one with many highlights and as many or more undertones. Burroughs manages to unite his past with his present while mildly projecting a future.
The story was his only effort of 1921 while falling between Tarzan The Terrible and The Girl From Hollywood the first of two books for 1922. the other being Tarzan And The Golden Lion. Thus this book falls between the recovery of Jane and their return to the Estate and Tarzan’s subsequent return to Opar. These two Tarzan novels undoubtedly reflect discord in the marriage of ERB and Emma.
It would seem that the move to California disrupted ERB’s concentration as the effort to udjust to Tarzana must have consumed his time somewhat in contradiction of his opinion in Tarzan The Invincible that man has been given all the time he can use, no more, no less. Well, there’s limits to everything, probably even infinity.
Whether Burroughs’ tremendous building efforts of the first couple years were pinching his finances at this time there does seem to be an element of panic in the story. The pictures of his new three car garage shows two Packards and a Hudson so that the unbridled spending of Marcus Sackett in Marcia Of The Doorstep of 1924 seems to be directly based on ERB’s own wastrel habits.
The Hudson is interesting as ERB may have bought his first Hudson in 1914 in emulation of his hero L. Frank Baum who he visited in Hollywood in 1913 and was friendly with again in 1916. In that connection the opening of Chessmen is a variation on The Wizard Of Oz in which Dorothy, her house and dog are transported from Kansas to Oz by a tornado. In Chessmen Tara of Helium is caught in her flier by a furious windstorm that deposits her in the all but forgotten outpost of the Kaldanes. So far out that it might in fact have been the Martian Oz.
Thus in a sense, ERB returns to the scenes of his childhood or, at least, his young manhood. This is very likely the result of stress, whether from looming financial difficulties or the responsibilities of managing his estate of Tarzana.
That he was under extreme stress is made evident by the appearance of John Carter who only appears to a stressed out Burroughs. At such times Burroughs psychologically returns to the comfort and security of Mars where he is beyond the travails of earthly existence. This in turn connects this story to the trials and tribs ERB was facing when he wrote Tarzan And The Lion Man. As I hope to show there is more than one similarity to that story.
This apprearance of Carter is interesting. Carter appears after sunset while leaving just before sunrise. ERB cannot be sure whether he was dreaming or the visit was real. ERB has said that his stories came from his dreams and this story bears all the marks of being a dream story.
ERB had the remarkable faculty of turning his problems into metaphors and symbols of his daily problems. While I don’t believe the stories were concocted in REM type dreaming I’m sure tha as he lay dozing weighing his daily problems he was able to weave them into a creditable story that he was able to elaborate when awake.
Plus, while we can’t be sure how much psychology he knew or how he understood it he had been aware of psychological concepts while still a boy. He learned much of this at the knee of Lew Sweetser on the Idaho ranch. One presumes he remembered, considered and developed his psychological ideas over the years. Sweetser, even as ERB was writing the story was giving public lectures on psychology. Chessmen is replete with psychological images not least the appearance of Carter himself.
Whether Carter was quasi real to Burroughs or not he wants us to believe that Carter was real. It is quite possible that Carter is not actually there but is merely a phantom of himself much as Helen of Troy was said to be a phantom in Rider Haggard’s The World’s Desire. Just as Carter explains his appearance to the dreaming ERB, Burroughs admits he was in a dreaming or trance state as he blew smoke at the head of his defeated king when Carter appears. That’s quite an image. His king or himself had been defeated on the chess board as perhaps in real life calling up the need for a visit from the omnipotent Carter.
And now as to your natural question as to what brought me to Earth again and this, to earthly eyes, strange habiliment. We may thank Kar Kormak, the bowman of Lothar. It was he who gave me the idea upon which I have been experimenting until at last I have achieved success. As you know I have long possessed the power to cross the void in spirit, but never before have I been able to impart to inanimate things a similar power. Now, however, you see me for the first time precisely as my Martian fellows see me- you see the very short sword that has tasted the blood of many a savage foeman; the harness with the devices of Helium and the insignia of my rank; the pistol that was presented to me by Tars Tarkdus, Jeddak of Thark.
Indeed. And I do see what Burroughs suggests, one presumes that the reader sees in his own mind’s eye, the habiliment and weapons on which John Carter, the bronze giant, speaks. We’ve been hypnotized into projecting into our own reality what isn’t there.
Yes, Carter speaks of Kar Kormak as though he really existed when we, having read the novel Thuvia, Maid Of Mars, know that the fantastic Bowmen Of Lothar were mental projections without substance who hypnotized others into seeing them and making them believe that they were real.
So what has Burroughs done here? We know that he is very familiar with the principles of hypnosis. At this very time many forms of mass hypnosis were being practised or about to be practiced. Freud was publishing his mass hypnosis lessons; Fritz Lang had or was making the first of his incredible Dr. Mabuse movies- Mabuse, The Gambler, in which mass hypnotism figures so prominently while Hitler, himself a master hypnotist, was making his bid for power.
Was Burroughs laughing up his sleeve at us as he knew we were actually visualizing in our own way what he suggested to us. I don’t know whether he was laughing but I’m sure he was confident that he had succeeded. So, having hypnotized us into believing the strange appearance of Carter who appears only in the same manner as the phantom bowmen of Lothar to Burroughs although as Carter says he has been successful in projecting the appearance of inanimate matter ERB then begins to weave his incredible story arranging the details so that all can be seen as reality to our minds having once accepted the appearance of Carter as reality who then narrates the story in his own voice.
Another interesting detail is that Carter now addresses ERB as his son. When ERB created Carter he was the man’s nephew his father being still alive. Then as he finished The Warlord Of Mars his father died thus Carter’s son dominates Thuvia, the next Martian novel. Now, while under stress, ERB’s father reappears to him to dictate this story to his son.
Carter, then, must always have been ERB’s projection of his idea of the perfect father.
Finally in this introduction I would like to note that both the city of Helium and the ruins of Opar were colored red and gold. ERB’s Hudson automobile then, a bit of memorabilia of Baum, links the Emerand Cityof Oz and the red and gold cities of Helium and Opar. Both cities are retreats under stress. As we will see a key strain of Chessmen is ERB’s fond memories of Baum and the Oz series. Indeed, Tarzana itself was a grander version of Baum’s own Ozcot while being at the same time an attempt to realize a terrestrial Opar and Helium.