Exhuming Bob XXX
A Review: Part II
Masked And Anonymous
When Dylan left home in the summer of ’59 for UMinnesota he would have been at the bottom of his despondency in its raw form. His subconscious would have been in possession of his mind. He manifested this condition at UMinnesota by a burst of degraded behavior, drunkeness and an inability to study. He did know his salvation lay in his music. He then practiced hard and assiduously. He apparently realized that he wasn’t rock n’ roll material while Folk Music was the rage, at the height of its popularity, although the slough of its despond could be seen from the heights. It was petering out even as Dylan rode it to fame and fortune. As he says in the revised Shelton he always knew that Folk Music was a shuck but he could do it and use it as a springboard.
Using his friends and acquaintances in Minneapolis to educate him he learned to sing and play quickly. Still deep in the throes of depression, ruled by his subconscious, he left for New York to try his luck there. It was two months after his arrival in New York before he turned up in Greenwich Village. He has said that during those two months he was hustling in Times Square. No one knows whether to take him seriously but given his state of mind he may have attempted to degrade himself beyond redemption to satisfy his father’s prophesy. He remained a heavy drinker in New York adding drugs to his repertoire. According to Andy Warhol who should have known an A Head when he saw
one Dylan was racing on amphetamines. It wouldn’t have been hard to do as nearly everyone in New York at the time was. The Village was a tough place and getting much tougher as Dylan went along.
He took up his station at a bar called the Kettle Of Fish which was a Mafia owned bar and undoubtedly tough enough. It may have been there that he and Andy Warhol first crossed paths as Andy frequented the place also. While it has not been recognized, they were actually competitors for the role of King of Bohemia. Although Warhol was much older they both began their rise at the same time coming to an apex simultaneously. A war of sorts ensued in which Dylan’s base was Downtown and Warhol’s base Midtown. Later Lennon and Ono would form an Uptown base but by that time Dylan had moved along although he continued to associate with Ono at least through the eighties. They may still meet but I haven’t come across any references.
Despondent people usually see the world as a Zoo, an insane asylum, a desert, a hole or in Dylan’s case as a state of desolation. In 1965 he wrote the song Desolation Row as he fought to free himself from his depression. He has retained this despondent state of mind from then to the present if his movie Masked And Anonymous is any indication. Thus the movie is a visualization of a tour of Desolation Row with ‘all the clowns and jugglers doing their tricks for you.’ The movie is a real side show if seen from that perspective. Indeed Dylan depicts a side show carnival act of The Man Eating Chicken which when you part the curtain shows a man eating chicken. My favorite memory of the midway was the Black Widow Spider Woman. Had a little chat with her too. At any rate Dylan hasn’t really advanced beyond 1959 when he left home.
There is nothing attractive in the movie. The lighting is usually dark and depressing. I don’t remember one scene in which the sun was out. The streets are vile, everything is a shambles or broken as he said in his song, Everything’s Broken. That means that he views himself as a broken man, beyond repair. One can see why Suze Rotolo was fearful. She had every right to be if one judges from the way Dylan treated his madonna, Sara. After psychologically abusing her for a decade she had no choice but to leave when she came down for breakfast one day and found her husband carousing with another woman. Dylan hasn’t been able to change his self-destructive behavior; if he weren’t able to make the money he does he himself would have been a bum on Desolation Row long ago.
Thus we are treated to a longish filmed tour down skid row to look into the blank despairing faces of derelicts as if they were the norm. Normal people do not exist to Dylan’s mind. The streets were dotted with burning oil drums, the streets look pockmarked and unkempt left by a society unable to care and incapable of maintaining its infrastructure. Echoes of Greil Marcus and David Lynch abound.
Dylan injects his religious fundamentalism into the story where the desk of the Editor bears a copy of the statue of the monkey reading Darwin’s Origin Of Species prominently displayed. Again, the building beside which the rundown bar cum TV studio is placed is the Masonic Hall on LA’s preeminent Whilshire Blvd, one of the great streets of the world. The Masons who once shaped the world and were the founders of the United States Of America, competitors with Judaism for rule of the world have fallen on hard times. Members have drifted away and no new ones recruited so the magnificent building stands empty. That old Masonic Lodge is vacant now with its grand ideals inscribed on its outside walls, as are Masonic Lodges across the country. Ours has been taken over by the museum.
Dylan in his Hibbing days was trained for the his Bar Mitzvah by an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi of the Lubavitcher sect brought in by his father who was powerful both among the Jews and Gentiles of Hibbing. Dylan has never lost his Lubavitcher or at least Orthodox sympathies so that the use of the Temple is a mockery of Freemasonry by Judaism in Dylan’s hands. Behold the winner, he says.
At the same time, for the duration of the movie Dylan was able to make a stink pit of the grand Wilshire Miracle Mile making it reflect his vision of reality. He was to project his psycological miasma on it to obliterate the beauty.
As I say, to him, everything is broken down. At one point he borrows his buddy , Bobby Cupid’s car which is a broken down old monster from Detroit’s golden era of the fifties and sixties. He is on the way to visit a Black prostitute. He crashes the car into a telphone pole walking away leaving it there smoking. Once again this is dark, even though night it is a duller dark than need be, a Halloween night before the demons are released from hell to reclaim the night for their annual visit.
The fallen woman, the Negro prostitute, lives in what once was a fine old mansion but now has fallen on hard times itself. What was once a grand approach is now a ruins blending in with the shadows that have no bottom. You can hear the earth groan as Dylan steps on it. The effect is so repulsive and unredeemable that one has no sympathy with the movie or Dylan and Larry Charles.
I could go on describing each degraded, broken scene but the record of that depressing aura would bring me down as well as yourself.
Let us take a look at the way Dylan uses his extras who populate the movie. If you thought the locations were depressing the cast is even more desolated.
The racial composition of the movie is of interest if this is how Dylan sees reality. There are no obvious Jews in the movie. Of course one knows that Dylan is Jewish but he is disguised as a goy cowboy, an incarnation of Rambling Jack Elliott. Perhaps Dylan has patterned this stage of his life after that of Jack Elliott after whom he patterned his early career also, actually studying and imitating him to the point where people said: ‘Look Jack, he’s stealing your act.’ As Elliott had priority in the persona Dylan might almost be perceived as Jack’s doppelganger although more successful. His character is named Jack. Elliott is also a Brooklyn Jewish cowboy.
The main actors are all White except for Penelope Cruz’ Pagan Lace who appears to be Mexican while apparently being a devout Catholic is no pagan. The bit players and extras are predominantly Mexican. They all have a bracero appearance, the kind of look that used to seen as typically Mexican. On Fate’s bus ride to the City the entire bus is filled with Mexicans which means, I suppose, the place was either Mexico or LA.
The Muzak of the background seems to always be a group singing Dylan’s songs in Spanish, rather puzzling. As mentioned, Fate’s father inexplicably seems to be Mexican while Fate’s mother also looks Mexican. The Micky Rourke character, who is apparently Fate’s half brother, is Mexican. Rourke muses that his people began as servants but own the big house now while they are taking over the country.
In the barroom scenes those enraptured by Dylan’s Country and Western tunes are improbably Mexicans and Negroes. To watch them bop out the rhythm rapturously to Dylan’s version of Dixie (I wish I was in the land of cotton…) is a sight to behold- defies all reason and experience. Who ever saw an African American at a Dylan concert? One wonders what Dylan was smoking, snorting, shooting, drinking or perhaps doing a combination of all four.
The manner in which our old Civil Rights activist portrays Blacks is also astounding. They are all thugs, criminals and prostitutes without exception. Well, except for the little mulatto girl who sings The Times They Are A Changin’. However she has a mean, nasty White mother in combat boots. The mother says that her daughter has memorized all of Fate’s songs. Fate asks: ‘Why did you do that, honey?’ The mean, nasty White mother interjects: ‘Because I made her, that’s why.’ Almost made me ashamed to be White. I had to brush up on my nasty act. The little girl launches into the song while everyone listens rapturously, enthralled at truth coming from the mouth of a babe. I know she is supposed to be a scene stealer but the kid was only passable. Not only was she no threat to the reputation of the young Michael Jackson, she wasn’t even a threat to Donnie Osmond. But, this is Dylan’s movie.
The first Negroes we see are two loan enforcers who are explaining the facts of life to Uncle Meat, excuse me, Uncle Sweetheart who owes more than he can pay. The Blacks give him a good beating informing him that they’ll be back.
The next Negroes we are introduced to improbably run the TV Network, possibly CBS, which also seems to be a stretcher. Not only do the Mexicans look like they missed high school but the Black Pres. of the Network acts like he left school after the sixth grade.
The head of the Network conducts business with a loaded .45 automatic on the conference table.
I don’t know what number this is in Dylan’s list of bad dreams but one does wonder what he ate before he climbed into bed. Dylan seems to search out freaks for his Desolation Row. He has a close up after the Animal Lover scene of a guy’s face that looks like a very bad case of scabies after being run over by a truck. I don’t know whether he was made up or Dylan found him somewhere and gave him scale and all the pot he could smoke.
If this movie is Dylan’s version of reality then the congressmen and senators should gather around and lend him a helping hand. Thank god Dylan doesn’t strive for verisimilitude, the whole movie is acted like Jr. High kids playing adults while filming it in the basement. It would help if they were mixing up some medicine. Since everything is fake you don’t have to run from the theatre screaming although I’m told that many did. I’m tough, I’ve sat through ten showings of this thing but, yes, I do believe I’ve had enough.
Part III follows in the next post.
May 16, 2011
Tarzan And The River
The Reds Vs. Edgar Rice Burroughs
And suddenly it was borne in on Mr. Barnstaple that he belonged now soul and body to the Revolution, to the Great Revolution that is afoot on Earth, that marches and will never desist nor rest again until old Earth is one city and Utopia set up therein. He saw clearly that Revolution is life and that all other living is a trafficking of life with death.
–H.G. Wells, Men Like Gods
Of all the literary influences of Edgar Rice Burroughs, none takes precedence over H.G. Wells. Time after time ERB makes allusions to ideas and novels of H.G. Wells. Although only ten years ERB’s senior, Wells had already a literary career of twenty years standing before ERB began to publish.
Wells had written hugely influential works such as When The Sleeper Wakes, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Island Of Dr. Moreau and what is perhaps the most famous science fiction story of all time, The War Of The Worlds. Dozens if not hundreds of stories, novels and movies can be shown to be quite similar to if not traced back to his writing. Echoes of the Wells style can even be found in the Rod Serling introductions to television’s The Twilight Zone. To read Wells is to be continually astonished by the literary skill and the immense variety of his subject matter.
Is it any wonder Edgar Rice Burroughs was dazzled by Wells’ virtuosity?
They both had many interests in common, not least of which was an interest in evolution. Both men were quite daring in their explorations of the subject.
Wells, quite astonishingly, projected the evolution of the ‘new man’ or sub-species which he noted as appearing around mid-nineteenth century as the man of science established his presence. His novel The Food Of The Gods deals with the emergence of this new sub-species. The topic then disappears, only to be re-examined a couple decades later in his Star Begotten. He substitutes cosmic rays from Mars to facilitate genetic mutation instead of a food but the effect is the same.
I find it striking that a man of such clear intellect should succumb to the lure of Communism. The crass materialism of Communism is a complete contradiction to Wells astral aspirations. No Red Communist is ever going to reach for the stars, they are mired in the mud of Earth.
Thus I find a conflict between Wells’ Communism and his Science, the one cancels the other out. Perhaps in Star Begotten when he hints that having discovered that he too is one of the ‘new men’ all his previous writing seems irrelevant to him.
Perhaps. But just prior to that discovery he had allowed his talents to be exploited as a hatchet man in the Red attack on our man, Edgar Rice Burroughs.
When ERB began writing in 1912 the Revolution, which had been simmering since the outbreak of revolution in 1789 and which received its potent infusion in 1847 through Marx and Engeels, was still a collection of wild eyed fanatics shouting slogans on street corners. All this changed a short five years later when the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia. The Revolution now had a power base from which to punish infidels.
For decades the Reds had been quietly infiltrating sensitive areas of society such as religion, education, and publishing. Then, with the success of the Bolsheviks, it was as though a semi-inflated tire suddenly filled to full size with a resounding pop. The mere grumblers and complainers now became vital elements of what H.G., Wells was to call The Open Conspiracy.
This Open or Red conspiracy was as fully bigoted in 1917 as Moslemism in 2001. As Wells observed in Men Like Gods, the Revolution was the true faith- in his words, ‘was life’ -while all non-believers were infidels , or in his words, ‘a trafficker of life with death.’ The meaning is the same. The faithful against the infidels, no quarter given.
The first article of faith with any religious movement is the collectivization of thought and action. No dissident thought or behavior is to be permitted, no Freedom of Conscience, no independence of speech or action. One must look to the priest, imam or commissar for the current opinion. To fail do so is to be excommunicated, to be expelled from the faithful.
A refusal to accept the faith is warrant for destruction.
This attitude was a direct rejection of the American ideals of freedom of conscience and individualism.
In America with its freer individualism, its constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience, speech and action, the process of subordinating the individual to the collective would be a long and arduous but not impossible effort.
Already in virtual control of the media of communication in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, there was no difficulty in fostering Communist writers while denying access to publication of Freedom of Conscience writers. One merely said the latter had no commercial value while promoting the former as the ‘best’ talent available. Who among the public was to disagree with this conclusion, as the work of non-Communist writers was kept from their eyes. It rapidly became known that you couldn’t get published unless you espoused certain views while rejecting others.
Preventing the publishing of new writers presented no difficulties, the problem was with established Freedom of Conscience writers. The question was how to discredit them and silence them. The best method is unrelenting negative criticism or slander. A writer’s strong points are ignored while his weak points are hammered with a sledge over and over.
Gradually admirers will be turned away while new readers will be warned off. Hopefully a loss of confidence will be induced in the writer. This is what happened with Edgar Rice Burroughs. Even though he was a best selling author he was never to be styled as American’s best loved writer, that accolade was reserved for the Reds. The very notion of a self-sufficient individual like Tarzan is anathema to the Revolution.
While taking on this best selling author was a formidable task, when the author has no means of defense except through his work, the task is actually quite easy. Burying the earlier work may present a problem, in the case of a gigantic figure like Tarzan the task proved to be impossible although the first novel, Tarzan Of The Apes, was unavailable from the twenties on.
The period from 1917 to the early 1920s was a period of consolidation and organization in the Communist world. Their battle was not only against what they called Capitalism but against dissident groups within their own ranks like the Socialists and then the Trotskyites. The Socialists were pushed into a backwater fairly easily, so by the early twenties the international arm of the Bolsheviks was functioning well, having set up stations in all the important western capitols.
The cadres organized into cells of ten were small in themselves but through ‘parlor pinks’, fellow travelers and ‘left leaning’ Liberals, Comunist numbers were vastly and discreetly augmented. While most followers didn’t consider themselves ‘card carrying’ members, their sympathies lay, like Wells, with the Revolution whose nerve center was Moscow.
Thus Wells, who belonged ‘soul and body’ to the Revolution was yet not a Communist member. However, a threat to the Revolution must be met by condign punishment.
While directions did come through Moscow, and Wells had met both Lenin and Stalin, still one recognized a counter revolutionary without help from a Commissar. Thus while it is possible that Wells received instructions to attack Burroughs it is also quite possible that he recognized the enemy and acted on his own although not probable.
Burroughs himself had taken cognizance of the collectivist threat to the American individualistic system and had been following Communist actitivies both closely and with hostility.
When we consider that the extremely well developed ideas and research on Red Activites in Tarzan The Invincible, which began publication in October of 1930, must have been developed in the short interval between 1917 and 1929, without allowing for time for the Revolution to become apparent in America, ERB’s awareness shows great concentration. Even moreso when one considers that the controversial events of 1919 led to the positve appearance of the Revolution in the United States.
Thus one assumes that ERB’s opinions were formed much earlier, perhaps from the activites of the IWW or Wobblies and Socialists during the teens. It is quite clear that he had studied the Revolution closely.
It should also be clear that both sides knew the nature of the quarrel. Whether Wells was assigned to do the hatchet job on Burroughs or took on the task voluntarily, he nevertheless made the ‘hit.’
As much as I like the writing of Wells and as talented as he was, he was nevertheless a very vain man. In his novel Star Begotten, which seems to be autobiographical, he seems to be be quite aware that he virtually invented the genres of futuristic and science fiction. More particularly, he took Mars as his own province. In Star Begotten he says that he is sorry he begat the subject. He doesn’t seem to be aware that he created a number of genres and sub-genres rather than mere imitators, as a score of novels appeared every year which he had to add to his collection. One assumes that he had a complete collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs with new titles arriving ‘by the score’ annually. It follows that he would have read the tales of this author who was outselling him. Not only outselling him but borrowing from him extensively. Unlike Kipling, it is clear that H.G. thought himself a complete original.
N.B. Both Wells Wells and Burroughs thought Kipling’s ‘The Man Who would Be King’ capital fare. It may indeed be the finest story ever told. The story should be part of every literate man’s mental funriture and practically memorized.
It would seem that the Red attack on ERB was in full swing by 1922 when Men Like Gods appeared, which is a specific attack on Burroughs.
As noted previously, the Reds controlled publishing. Thus the free acess Burroughs had to pulp publishing in 1912 was progressively eroded as the thirties wore on until it was virtually impossible for him to place a story.
The wider market reached by the popular magazines or slicks had always been denied him. Possibly, pre-1920 ERB may have been considered too outre or bizarre for ‘family’ magazines, but by the thirties one finds it hard to believe that the slicks would refuse such a best selling author unless something else was involved.
One has only to look at the roll call of the ‘best young writers’ of the thirties to see the answer. They’re all Red. All of them have disappeared. Even one of the ‘best and brightest,’ Robert Sherwood, is unread except by a small coterie of specialists, if that.
The big publishing firms had always shunned Burroughs. True, those were stuffier times when writing like Burroughs’ would have been sniffed at but, after all, this is America where money is religion.
So Burroughs’ means of reply was limited solely to his books, which by this time were being self-published. The polite theory is for Burroughs to explain that his self-publication was caused by greed, but the self-publication of his own books by Upton Sinclair, who lived Across LA in Pasadena, was not. There were political reasons for Sinclair to publish his own works, just as later there was a political reason for Howard Fast to publish his own. I suspect the same reasons caused ERB to publish his own. The next problem after publishing your own is to find distribution, but then that is another story.
What is clear is that Wells was very aware of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The internal evidence of Men Like Gods indicates that Wells first became aware of Burroughs in 1921. It is more than probable that Wells hadn’t heard of ERB until that date. The war in Europe broke out in 1914 before Burroughs’ novels had begun to appear in book form. It would be questionable whether Wells saw or heard of Burroughs’ pulp magazine publications.
Three years after the war ended, his attention had been drawn to Burroughs’ writing. He was not ‘entertained.’
At the present day it is fairly well accepted that Burroughs’ was so enchanted by Kipling’s Just So Stories that he used them for a hundred pages or so of his Tarzan Oeuvre. Kipling, who knew there was only one story and that every writer had told the same story from the beginning of literature, was flattered by Burroughs’ borrowing.
ERB, who used every story or detail in a story that he liked, had borrowed pretty freely of H.G. If Burroughs’ novel The Monster Men wasn’t inspired by Wells’ The Island Of Dr. Moreau, it must be completely original.
Perhaps the borrowing didn’t offend Wells so much, many of whose inspirations are not so cleverly disguised, as the criticism of his ideas of time travel by Burroughs.
Wells had personal as well as political motives for attacking ERB.
As one who admires Wells’ writing and intellectual abilities, I have to believe that he allowed himself to become a dupe of the Reds. His ardent desire for a Utopia must have blurred his vision. His defense of Stalinist atrocities rings as hollow as onyone else’s. He must have known he was defending evil and willfully blinked. At any rate, Burroughs as an individualist had to be brought down.
As Burroughs’ work is free of political references before the Bolshevik Revolution, it follows that his references to the Reds after 1928’s Lord Of The Jungle must have been defensive measures in response to attacks.
If my understanding of the novel is correct, ERB made an oblique counter-attack in his 1929-30 Tarzan At The Earth’s Core. This novel was a counter-attack directed at the notions of Albert Einstein. Whether it is openly acknowledged or not, Freud and Einstein were active members of the Open Conspiracy, their works were as much political as they were scientific. In fact, the political content is easier to trace than the scientific.
In a rather bold move, ERB actually discredited Einstein’s Theor Of Relativity by disproving the objective existence of Time in Earth’s Core. Without Time there is no Time-Space continuum and Einstein’s theory falls to the ground.
I know of no studies that deal with criticism of ERB’s work, but there must have been many negative and belittling reviews of his novels. Success invites attack. There must be many mentions of Burroughs and Tarzan in The Daily Worker of the twenties and thirties for instance.
Either by reviews or word of mouth the word must have gotten to Burroughs that Wells was accusing him of a daring lack of originality in his writing. Burroughs makes what appears to be a direct response to both Wells’ criticism and the Red philosophy in 1930’s Tarzan The Invincible.
In the opening paragraph, ERB defends his habit of borrowing from other writers, then he offers a couple of really remarkable passages which display a very informed and deep understanding of political currents. In chapter 3 he offers this rather profound analysis:
‘Our Red emissaries have been laboring for a long time toward the culmination of the Revolution in India that will distract the attention and armed forces of Great Britain. We are not succeeding so well in Mexico as we had planned, but there is still hope, while our prospects in the Philippines are very bright. The conditions in China you well know. She is absolutely helpless, and we have hope that with our assistance she will eventually constitute a real menace to Japan. Italy is a very dangerous enemy and it is largely the purpose of embroiling her in a war with France that we are here.’
That was a very comprehensive understanding of worldwide Red activities that could only have been obtained by the closest attention. It should be clear that when FDR sent military aid to China in the thirties he was providing ‘our’ that is Communist help to aid China against Japan. The above facts are the very facts that Reds in America were doing their best and successfully to obscure. ERB was also very aware of what was being done by American fellow travelers and well meaning philanthropists. Consider this passage from chapter 4:
‘But what do the puny resources of this single Ameican mean to us?’ demanded Zora. ‘ A mere nothing compared to what America is already pouring into Soviet Russia. What is his reason compared with the reason of these others who are already doing more to hasten the day of world communism than this Third International itself- it is nothing, not a drop in the bucket.’
‘What do you mean, Zora?’ asked Miguel.
‘I mean the bankers and manufacturers, and engineers of America who are selling their own country and the world to us in the hope of adding more gold to their already bursting coffers. One of their most pious and lauded citizens [Henry Ford] is building great factories for us in Russia where we may turn out tractors and tanks; their manufacturers are vying with one another to furnish us with engines for countless thousands of airplanes; their engineers are selling us their brains and their skill to build a great modern manufacturing city, [Stalingrad] in which ammunitiuons and engines of war may be produced. These are the traitors, these are the men who are hastening the day when Moscow shall dictate the policies of the world.’
Needles to say that Henry Ford, who was later denounced as a Nazi, never got any credit elsewhere for forwarding this Red revolution. The Reds, shortly after the above passage was written, tried to invade Ford’s plants in Detroit to smash his machinery. If anything, his well meaning, if misplaced, aid to the Soviets assisted them in their defeat of the Nazis before Stalingrad. Well, many times our motives are misunderstood and our best intentions are turned against us.
These passages show that, indeed, the Reds had a well-informed articulate and popular opponent. One can only assume that this unwanted provocation drove ERB into this singular and remarkable display of political acumen.
ERB’s opinions had to be researched and formed before 1930 so that a scant ten years or so after the Revolution surfaced in the US ERB was knowledgeable of the far-flung activities of the Reds and the party was ready to ‘expose’ him. The Reds did indeed know with whom they were dealing.
As their most well-known and successful author, they chose Wells to lead the attack on Burroughs. Of course this passed in the background where only those interested could see. No one else knew of the battle at the time and a very few are aware of it now.
Whether ERB or Wells ever met is not clear. However it should be borne in mind that ERB lived in Hollywood, or across the ridge in Tarzana, while Wells who was very successful in films spent some little time in the movie capitol. For some reason his high-pitched voice so disappointed Marion Davies, Hearst’s good friend, that she turned admiration to detestation.
Also living in Los Angeles after 1937 was the most famous of the ‘tween the wars writers, Aldous Huxley, of Brave New World fame. Huxley seems to have had some antagonism to Wells as evidenced in his novels After Many A Summer Dies The Swan and Time Must Have A Stop.
As Huxley took up Burrough’s theme of the degeneration of ‘God’ into half-ape through genetic experiments to gain immortality, in 1939’s After Many A Summer it seems that he might have been giving aid and support to the beleaguered ERB. It would be interesting to know if he and Huxley ever got together.
Ant any rate Invisible drew an angry retort from Wells in his 1933 novel The Shape Of Things To Come. Wells was a writer who believed in the perfectibility of Man. Thus 1922’s Men Like Gods is another attempt at creating that mirage of the liberal mind, a Utopia. Wells was a Utopianist and Burroughs was a realist. Strangely, Wells chooses to attack Burroughs from a realist and not a Utopian point of view. Men Like Gods criticizes Burroughs personally for perpetuating a world of vicious men engaged in pernicious practices. Wells kills him off during the course of the story, which is a precious bit of wishful thinking.
Wells was of course a brilliant sylist while ERB clumped along adding component to component. The opening couple of chapters are so brilliantly satiric that echoes of it can still be heard in literature today. The novel’s hero is Mr. Barnstaple, which I presume means ‘horse pucky’ which is staple of barns, who starts out to be a caricature of Burroughs but ends in being an alter ego of Wells.
The book refers directly back to Tarzan At The Earth’s Core, which denies the possibility of time travel. In Men Like Gods Mr. Barnstaple and several other ‘Earthlings’ are catapulted across ‘possible universes’ which in Wells’ imagination stretch out in limitless number side by side to infinity, to the universe just next door wich is the same as ours but nudged ahead a couple thousand years.
Now, possible universes is a concept not unlike the idea of God. The notion reqauires absolute faith because no one has ever seen or talked to God and no one is ever going to cross channels to another parallel universe or see anyone from one. But it’s a pleaant thing to believe if you don’t want to deal with reality.
Mr. Barnstaple, now an alter ego of Wells, understands and sympathizes with the Utopians, even though he realizes athat he is but a primitive compared to them. The rest of the Earthlings are baffled by the Utopian lifestyhle.
They decide to revolt and take over Utopia much as Peachey and Daniel do in Afghanistan in Kipling’s Man Who Would Be King.
They are hopelessly mismatched. After inadvertently causing an epidemic of colds which hadn’t been seen in Utopia for millennia they move to conquer but are captured and sent to Quarantine Crag until a cure for the cold is discovered which take the Utopians only a few days. Here Wells does a marvelous parody of Burroughs’ African style. The Crag is very similar to various mountain fastnesses of Burroughs. The Earthlings attempt to capture the Utopian representatives which Mr. Barnstaple foils. He then takes flight escaping in a hilarious take-off of Tarzan’s escape from the Thipdar nest in At The Earth’s Core.
His escape is fortunate for him because the Utopian response is to saw of the entire top of the Crag, expelling it and its inhabitants swirling off through the ‘possible’ universes’ to land one knows not where. In a Stalinist orgy of destruction Wells leads us to believe all were killed. Then realizing his own dystopian savagery he corrects the story so that the Crag was only ‘rotated’ in and out of the Utopian universe.
You see how easy it is to make facts comply with your fantasies when you don’t have to prove them scientifically.
During the rotation, only the two most dastardly Earthlings were killed, one of whom was Burroughs’ character.
The references to himself were no difficulty for Burroughs to pick up. He responded with two novels that are quite remarkable: 1932’s Tarzan And The Leopard Men and 1933’s Tarzan And The Lion Man.
Tarzan And The Leopard Men seems to be a direct ressponse to Men Like Gods. In contrast to the Godlike Utopians the Leopard Men are savages pretending to be animals. The story is based on a real life situation in the heart of darkness and not in an imaginary Utopian parallel universe. In the Leopard cult the savages dressed in leopard skins, attacked victims using iron claws that extended through the fingers of the closed fist- not unlike the tines of the combs used for the Afro hair style of the 1960s and 70s in the United States- and left them hideously torn lying on the jungle floor.
The cult survived at least through the sixties, its most famous eruption occurring in the fearsome Mau-Mau ravages of the 1950s.
Thus Burroughs contrasts ‘what might be’ with an actual state of affirs. On the first page of Leopard Men is a reference to Wells’ novel, When The Sleeper Wakes. Thus ERB makes a wry comment of Wells’ state of mind. When Wells wakes from his dream of Utopia, the Heart Of Darkness is what he will see. The Leopard cult villains are the antithesis of the Utopians. Thus Leopard Men answered Wells’ Men Like Gods rather sharply. Whether Wells continued the argument I am unable to say. Given Communist stragegy, they may have passed criticism on to Burroughs in such a way that he could only respond without apparent provocation. ERB was quick enough to beware of such traps. Nevertheless 1933’s Tarzan And The Lion Man appears to ridicule Wells in a rather savage manner.
It would appear that the character of ‘God’ in Lion Man is based on Wells. As a result of genetic experiments God, rather than progressing in a Utopian fashion, regresses from Man to ape or, perhaps, ‘Leopard Man.’
It would seem that Aldous Huxley who followed the work of both Wells and Burroughs entered the fray on the side of ERB, publishing After Many A Summer in 1939 which carries on the theme of an English Lord regressing to apehood in the search for eternal life.
Perhaps because Burroughs was prodded by this attack of the open Conspiracy he turned out what I think are the finest novels of his career. Even though I find At The Earth’s Core rather tedious reading, still upon reflection the subject makes it much more interesting. A further search for meaning might open other vistas.
Earth’s Core leads into what I consider the best of the Tarzan novels: Tarzan The Invincible, followed by Tarzan Triumphant, Tarzan And The City Of Gold, Tarzan And The Leopard Men and Tarzan And The Lion Man.
Although the later work of Burroughs is much maligned, probably because of Red influence, as repetitious or even ‘hack’ work, I find that when placed in its proper context of the Communist and Wells quarrel and his really exciting discussion of the psychological problems of the Animus and Anima, there is a depth of meaning and maturity which is really remarkable.
Interestingly enough, after 1934 the tone of the work of both Wells and ERB changes. In Wells’ Star Begotten he seems to come to his senses or his hero, based on himself, comes to his senses, possibly because ERB shouted across the possible universes to him in Leopard Man, Wake UP! Wells actually repudiates the tone of his earlier work in Star Begotten, surprisingly even rejecting the attitude of his phenomenally successful The Outline Of History.
The theme of Star Begotten is once again the evolution of another superior human species. This time they are created by cosmic rays beamed on Earth by Martians. The narrator is humbled before the emergence of this new sub-speices to which his son will belong when the two protagonists of the novel, Joseph and Mary, discover the truth.
Joseph says to Mary: ‘Sometimes I think you seem hardly to belong to this world…’
She had a freakish idea.
“Is it that?’
She turned to look him in the face.
‘Joe. Joe, dear. Tell me…’
Would the jest offend him? No. She stood away from him and put a finger to him.
‘Joe! You aren’t by any chance a sort of fairy changeling? Not one of these Martians?’
He stopped tearing the scraps of paper in his hands. A sort of fairy changeling? Not one of those Martians? He stared at this new, this tremendous idea for a time. ‘Me!’ he said at last. ‘You think that of me?’
The miracle happened in an instant.
A great light seemed to irradiate and in a moment to tranquilize the troubled ocean of his disordered mind. the final phase of his mental pacification was very swift indeed. At a stroke everything became coherent and plain to him. He had, he realized, completed his great disclosure with this culminating discovery. His mind swung around full compass and clicked in place. He too was starborn.
Well, I don’tknow whether H.G. woke up or went into a deeper trance, but perhaps at ERB’s insistence he realized tht he lived with feet in Africa and his head on Mars. A little stretcher perhaps but yes, H.G. was of a new breed, star-begotten, if you will, and so was Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Wait a minute. I’m having funny sensations. Yes, can it be true? I’m star-begotten too. Maybe just maybe….
May 8, 2011
Tarzan And The River
Edgar Rice Burroughs In Aspic
When ‘Omer smote his bloomin’ lyre,
He’d heard men sing by land and sea:
An’ what ‘e thought ‘e might require,
‘E went and took- the same as me!
The market-girls an’ fishermen,
The shepherds and the sailors, too,
They ‘eard old songs turn up again,
But kept it quiet- same as you!
They knew ‘e stole, ‘e knew they knowed,
They didn’t tell, nor make a fuss,
But winked at ‘Omer down the road.
An’ ‘e winked back= the same as us.
I want a dream lover,
So I don’t have to dream alone.
First published in the Burroughs Bulletin
Spring 2003 issue.
As an author Edgar Rice Burroughs belongs to the generation of writers who wrote between the wars. He is or should be placed beside Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Aldous Huxley, P.G. Wodehouse, H.G. Wells, John Dos Passos and John Steinbeck, among others. Further, of all those authors ERB was the best selling writer in the entire world. His reign came to an end in 1939 and then only after his talent was dissipated. This is a remarkable achievement against some very qualified and important writers. One doesn ‘t often hear of Steinbeck societies. Hemingway or any of the others but Burroughs societies exist in many countries around the world.
I consider myself an intellectual and literary snob, yet I acknowledge ERB as important an intellectual and literary figure as any of the savants mentioned above. ERB did not parade his knowledge and savvy as most writers are wont to do. He incorporated a fairly deep understanding of many contemporary issues without a hint of the lamp. Tarzan Triumphant is a case in point. Obviously the two religious groups in the novel refer to Jews and Christians, but there is no reference to either sect. One is left to infer that the Old Testament crowd led by Abraham, son of Abraham, is of the Old Testament while their rivals are New Testament. In so far as ERB allows the story to involve religious discussion, the moral is ‘a pox on both your houses.’
Even more remarkable is that over the writing of the published twenty-one Tarzans before 1940 all the novels are interrelated. ERB was able to keep his Tarzan facts in order over a twenty-seven year period of writing while being involved in the writing of dozens of other books. In point of fact the Tarzan oeuvre is a roman a fleuve- a river novel.
A River novle is a series of novels which traces the course of a nation, people, a family or an an individual over a period of at least decades. The first novel ever written was a River novel, that was the story of the Greek invasion of Troy.
The two surviving complete books of this remakarble story are Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Moreover, many fragments exist predating the events of the Iliad and after.
Perhaps the most prodigious of all River novels is the Vulgate Lancelot chronicling the adventures of King Arthur and his knights. The story runs on for thousands of pages.
In modern times Alexander Dumas’ five volume epic concerning the adventures of the Three Musketeers constitute a River novel. Trollope wrote two, that of the Pallisers and the Barchester series. The model for the twentieth century was Remembrance Of Things Past by Marcel Proust.
Edgar Rice Burroughs has always been treated frivolously, yet the Tarzan oeuvre is a work of some magnitude which does not compare unfavorably with Proust.
Proust’s work looks backward as he relives his life trying to make order of his psychology. Burroughs’ Tarzan oeuvre records his psychological development on a current basis as it evolves year by year.
ERB’s work is characterized as imaginative fiction while Proust’s is considered realistic fiction. In other words, realistic fiction builds on real life experience in real life situations, while the imaginative writer is compelled to ‘invent’ incidents.
Thus while the realistic writer draws primarily from personal experience and observations, the imaginative writer has to draw from published sources of either fiction or nonfiction or convert real life experiences into symbolic form. The latter is more true of science and fantasy fiction. If the science fiction writers of the forties and fifties hadn’t had a couple thousand years of esoteric literature to draw on there would have been little science fiction. Of course the writers so disguise their sources that without an extensive education in esoteric writings oneself the stories seem incredibly original.
Borrowing from every source is extensive. For instance, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is the same story as H.G. Wells’ Food Of The Gods with different detailing. Wells himself extrapolated his story farom Darwin’s Origin Of Species and The Descent Of Man. Darwin of course turned to nature, the ultimate source of suggestion, for his story.
That Burroughs borrowed extensively and sometimes blatantly is of little consequence, especially as his original contributions were so extensive and satisfying. As the opening poem by Kipling indicates, at least he was honest enough to admit of outside influences.
The Russian Quartet, or first four novels, is a tentative beginning to the Tarzan oeuvre. It is possible that the first novel, Tarzan Of The Apes, was just an attempt to express certain ideas about heredity and such related topics that ERB wanted to say with no thought of sequels. The story itself is absurd enough that it seems a miaracle that it was accepted and published. It is perhaps less surprising that it was so readily accepted by the reading public as the great figure of Tarzan rises shining from the pages. One ignores any story telling flaws to get a glimpse of the bronzed forest giant, the great Tarmangani, the jungle god, the Lord of the Jungle, Tarzan. A writer should be so lucky to come up with such an archetypal figure.
Return and Beasts find Burroughs groping for a direction. Beasts is is heavily influenced by H.M. Stanley’s writing on Africa as well as that of Mungo Park, not to mention Edgar Wallace’s Sanders Of The River. The story of Paulevitch’s experience in the jungle was obviously taken from Mungo Park’s Travels In The Interior Of Africa. Beasts itself which also has a lot of Defoe in it, is absurd to the extreme yet somehow redeems itself as one becomes entranced by the outrageous notion of apes and men row-row-rowing their boat down the stream. Somewhere either before the beginning of Beasts or after the end, ERB interweaves the story of Barney Custer and the Mad King and the Eternal Lover to bring his own psychology into the Tarzan character. Thus ERB pictures himself as the Son Of Tarzan in the novel of that name.
Having resolved, after a fashion, his conflicts with this father and somewhere in that tremendous gush of writing having integrated his personality, ERB then turns to himself as the conflicted Animus of Tarzan the Hero and Tarzan the Clown to resolve that psychological dilemma over the next seventeen volumes published during his lifetime.
The Russian Quartet was written over a period of three years. The eight novels between Son and Lost Empire were written over fourteen years. Whether the ‘Lost Empire’ refers to Emma and Opar is open to conjecture. In any event Lost Empire signifies a terminal junction in ERB’s psychology.
Then as the problems of his Animus and Anima resolve themselves ERB rapidly turns out six volumes over four years.
He had difficulty writing Tarzans while struggling with his psychology but wrote quickly once he had made up his mind.
From 1934 in psychologically related volumes to 1938 he published the three additional novels of Quest, Forbidden city and Magnificent. The psychologically relevant Madman was discovered and published in 1964, fourteen years after his death. Perhaps the thought the novel was too personal and painful to publish himself.
As noted “Foreign Legion’ is a propagandistic after thought to the oeuvre.
As ERB didn’t begin writing until he was thirty-six it is fair to say that his writing represents the effort of a mature mind. This is even more evident when one reflects that the majority of the Tarzan oeuvre was written between the ages of forty-one and fifty-eight. Lion Man, which is the culminating volume of ERB’s psychological odyssey was written at the last age.
The novels written between 1930 and 1934 which I consider excellent work and the best of the Tarzan oeuvre are the ones most often dismissed as repetitious. One of the very best, Tarzan And The Leopard Men, is, oddly enough, often dismissed as ‘hack work’. Very strange.
But to return to Opar and move forward from there. From 1912 or 1911 if you consider from the first moment ERB put pen to paper to 1915, things developed very rapidly in ERB’s mind. The rich experience of his lifetime, all his opinions, thoughts and fancies were so compressed within his skull that as I say he erupted with more than the force of Spindletop. It took him three years to cap that gusher and then the flow was strong and steady until 1934 when he realized himself.
Return was written in 1913 when his Anima, La of Opar, first pops up. She then disappears until 1916 when wife Emma apparently sneered at the wealth ERB had laid at her feet. She would not so soon forget the first twelve years of her humiliation.
Her rejection of ERB the Hero must have hurt Burroughs to the quick. Following Return he wrote The Mad King in which after numerous trials and tribulations and after he had disposed of Custer’s inept doppelganger, the Mad King, Barney Custer and the Princess Emma were reconciled. In all likelihood the story was a day-dream of wish fulfillment in the Freudian manner because in The Eternal Lover which followed quickly Barney Custer goes to Tarzan’s Equatorial estate but with his sister Victoria and not the ‘Princess Emma’. His marital relationship is obviously still very troubled. As noted, The Eternal Lover is a myth of the nature of Pysche and Eros, the Anima and Animus.
Interestingly, Boy Jack’s wife, which is to say ERB’s at the end of Son of Tarzan is no longer a princess but the daughter of a general. Emma had apparently been demoted in ERB’s emotions.
In a psychological quandary ERB has Tarzan leave Jane in 1916 to return to Opar and La for more gold to lay at Jane/Emma’s feet. This story is crucial for the rest of the oeuvre. ERB’s dream lover, La, spares his life and offers to marry him or in other words take him away from Jane/Emma. At this point in his life ERB is faithful in body if not in spirit. He declines her offer having his faithful Waziri stagger back to Jane under a load of one hundred twenty pounds of gold each.
Apparently the wealth of Opar of which tons of gold remained to be tapped as well as bushels of the very largest of diamonds (move ahead to the Father of Diamonds in the Forbidden City) is not enough to assuage Jane/Emma’s anger at Ed’s failure for the first twelve years of married life. She rejects ERB’s present income. This must have been a staggering blow for Burroughs who at this point in his life wanted to abandon his clown role for that of the hero.
He had already begun Jungle Tales Of Tarzan, which he managed to finish, otherwise from Jewels of Opar to Tarzan the Untamed there is a hiatus in Tarzan novels for thirty-nine months. For over three years he and Emma were apparently at a stalemate making it impossible for him to write further Tarzan adventures.
When Tarzan returns it is as The Untamed and he and Jane have been separated, possibly for good as Tarzan has no idea where she is; common report is that she is dead.
One may infer that the marriage is all but over. It takes another twenty-three months before Tarzan The Terrible appears. Tarzan goes from Untamed to Terrible. Apparently ERB and Emma are now temporarily reconciled as Tarzan finds Jane in the forgotten land of Pal-ul-don (paladin?) and he, she and Jack go swinging down the jungle trails to return to Equatoria. the family is reunited. But is it?
After the passage of twenty-two months Burroughs follows Terrible with Golden Lion. Now the title Golden Lion is somewhat misleading as the Lion doesn’t play that large a role in the story. The Lion seems to have sprung from Burroughs’ subconscious as a defense against the Lion of Emma. In this story Tarzan leaves Jane for a fairly extended visit to his dream lover, La in Opar. They are together for some time as they adventure into the adjacent lost valley called The Valley Of Diamonds. (Once again, see Tarzan And The Forbidden City.) Possibly the Father of Diamonds represents the Jewel of Great Price which turns out ironically to be a piece of coal. This was after ERB left Emma for Florence.
Golden Lion introduces the great doppelganger of Tarzan, Esteban Miranda. I am absolutely fascinated by this character. Miranda looks, talks and walks so much like Tarzan that not only can’t Jane/Emma tell them apart but Miranda even fools the faithful Waziri.
Golden Lion is paired with Tarzan And The Ant Men. You have to read both to get the whole story.
Esteban Miranda is a London actor, a clown and a cowardly fool. ERB goes to great lengths to deliniate the character of this unpleasant but goofily amiable alter ego.
In the confusion Miranda is captured by a savage tribe of Blacks where he is spared because of his resemblance to Tarzan. He escapes finally although he is a blithering idiot who has lost his memory. Get that! Even Tarzan’s doppelganger loses his memory. I haven’t been able to fugure out ERB’s problems with his memory yet.
He is discovered by the Waziri where he is once again mistaken for the real thing. He is taken to the ranch house where Jane nurses him back to health. Still mistakes him for the real Tarzan, he is about to be embraced lovingly by Jane when the terrible, untamed Tarzan appears through the French windows. Tarzan himself had been off having incredible adventures with the Ant Men returning just in the nick of time.
Here apparently Jane rejects Burroughs the Hero in favor of Burroughs the Clown of the first twelve years of her marriage. This is something which ERB can’t forgive. His resentment turns into a divorce about ten years later.
There is then another long hiatus of approximately forty months before Tarzan returns as Lord of the Jungle with Jane in a very subsidiary role. So in twelve years Burroughs wrote only about five Tarzan novels. Then between 1929 and 1934 he whipped out an additional seven.
The change of pace was caused by the quickening resolution of ERB’s psychological dilemma. He was obviously living his life vicariously as Tarzan.
It is this development of his psychology recorded through Tarzan that makes the oeuvre the most fascinating of River novels.
Let us understand that a writer, any writer, is always discussing his own psychology. this applies both to so-called non-fiction as well as fiction. Properly speaking there is no such thing as non-fiction. The difference between the two is that in non-fiction a writer describes actual events through a prism of so-called objectivity. In other words in writing about Edgar Rice Burroughs I am bound to adhere to the facts of ERB’s life and I cannot invent details to improve the story. However, in actuality I see what my own psychology has prepared me to see. My psychology, that is, in conjunction with my intelligence and emotional perspicuity.
Anyone who has read the autobiography of Frank Harris knows that his favorite adage is that no man can see over the top of his head. Therefore it behooves every man to broaden and develop his experience so that he can stand as tall as possible. In that way he can at least hopefully see over the heads of all his fellows. I was once fortunate enough to try this on a crowded street in Hong Kong where I stood head and shoulders above my fellow Chinese pedestrians. You could see the heads and shoulders of all the American sailors inching slowly along like icebergs in a sea of Chinese.
But seriously, one must develop one’s intelligence and that is exactly what Edgar Rice Burroughs did throughout his life. ERB was an avid reader both of fiction and non-fiction. He makes frequent allusion to Poe, Wells, Doyle and who I think he respects most, Rudyard Kipling. If you have read the great African explorers you will have no difficulty identifying sources. ERB was quick in picking up new titles also. Forbidden City was, I believe, based partially on Digging For Lost African Gods by Byron Khun de Protok published in 1926.
ERB was also forced to respond to hectoring outside criticism. I’m sure he little knew the effect that the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 would have on him personally, but by 1933’s Leopard Men he was thrown on the defensive by what H.G. Wells called the ‘Open Conspiracy’ or the Red Revolution. I will deal with it in the last essay in our series called ‘Star Begotten.’
All of Burroughs stories are many layered if you care to look beyond the surface details. After Golden Lion ERB develops a whole jungle family of attendant animals which follow him through all the stories. Each novel is merely one episode in the life of Tarzan/Burroughs and each leads to the next novel in true River fashion.
This is wonderful stuff. There is no difficulty understanding why Burroughs was the best selling author of his time.
After recording the difficulties of reconciling himself with Emma from 1916 to 1928 ERB reluctantly threw in the towel when he wrote Tarzan And The Lost Empire. The double entendre of the lost empire is explicit in between the lines. It is not only the Lost Empire deep in the Heart Of Darkness but also his dream of building a great empire with Emma. The dissolution of his marriage and his search for a real live La of Opar begins with the book.
At this point he has also come under attack by the Reds who cannot tolerate the success of a Conservative writer. Consolidating rapidly from 1917 to 1923, by this time the Revolution was in control of publishing. They could deny access to new conservative writers, creating the myth that all the best new writers were Communist in faith, but they still had to destroy the reputations of older, non-conforming writers.
I don’t know that any studies have been made of literary or journalistic attacks on ERB, but he responds as though there were many. In 1929 he took time out from his personal psychology to write a major counter-attack against the Revolution with Tarzan At The Earth’s Core.
While this may appear to be simply a critique of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, in fact Einstein was as much a political figure as a scientific one. Both he and Freud were prominent agents of the ‘Open Conspiracy’ along with that literary political agent, H.G. Wells, so that Earth’s Core is a counter-attack on his detractors.
Then in quick succession ERB turned out Tarzan the Invicinble, (watch the titles) Tarzan Triumphant, Tarzan And The City Of Gold, Tarzan And The Leopard Men and Tarzan And The Lion Man.
After a long struggle Burroughs quickly resolved his psychological dilemma. He rectified his Animus, disposing of the clown side of his nature while at the same time reconciling his Anima. He divorced Emma while marrying what he fancied was a La of Opar in Florence. The final conflict with Emma is recorded in City Of Gold. The basic idea for City was probably borrowed from Bulfinch’s The Legends Of Charlemagne. In Legends, an enchantress has captured many of the leading palladins of Charlemagne which she has imprisoned in a city of gold. The medieval writers borrowed the story of Odysseus and Circe from Homer.
In Burroughs’ story the enchantress Nemone has ‘captured’ a bemused Tarzan who may escape any time he chooses but he elects to stay around to see what will happen.
Lion Man is notable for the way Burroughs blends psychology, fiction, the movies and how the movies affect the perception of reality of movie-goers. Film, which was developed during Burroughs’ young manhood, had a profound effect on the movie-goer’s ability to distinguish real life from movie fantasy. Burroughs was qite precocious in understanding this. There are earlier references to the matter in his work but here he gives it a full scale examination, both as when the fictional Tarzan replaces the even more fictional Obroski in Africa and when as a Burroughs doppelganger Tarzan mixes on set with the movie people in Hollywood where they fail to recognize him as the real thing, Lion Man is perhaps the most interesting of all the Tarzan novels.
After Lion Man, which both rectifies his Animus and reconciles his Anima, his motive for writing fast and furious disappeared. In fact, his subject matter disappears. He had in effect run out of material. Tarzan’s Quest and Tarzan And The Forbidden City record his lingering problems with his two ladies at the age of sixty-three. You can see why he wrote it as a farce.
Tarzan And The Madman caps the story of his pschological development although he did not publish the novel during his lifetime.
At the end, as is not unusual, he returned to the beginning as in The Mad King. The totally farcical Forbidden City is an example of what his writing might have turned into if he had been allowed to publish under his pseudonym, Normal Bean. As a comic novel, Forbidden City is actually very funny, if absurd, as Tarzan is driven from pillar to post by his two women. This undoubtedly reflects his real life situation. In the end, he says, the fabulous diamond he and everyone else is seeking, the Jewel Of Great Price, is merely a mirage turning out to be as worthless as a piece of coal.
Both Lion Man and Forbidden City seem to have influenced Aldous Huxley, one of the major intellectual writers of the period. His novel, After Many A Summer Dies The Swan (1939), has allusions to Burroughs’ two novels. The theme of ‘Lion Man’ of the mad scientist, God, who reverts to a half-ape, half-man creature is replicated in Swan in which an English nobleman who has lived for two hundred years reverts to an apelike existence.
That the theme may be more than coincidental is the fact that Huxley incorporates an imaginary University of Tarzana into the story. Thus one of the great intellectuals of the period found much of deep interest in ERB’s novels while also reacting to Wells.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was in fact a great literary artist, if a trifle coarse. He is, in fact, a great talent which if the critics fail to realize it, the people don’t.
Surviving a hundred years is no small matter, it takes some talent to do that. Yet, after those hundred years ERB is still an active force in the literary coal mines. Well, it’s not like coal doesn’t burn with a pure blue flame and under pressure turn into diamonds.