It is just luck that I somehow have a first edition hardback of Tarzan of the Apes. How it ended up in my mother’s hands I never learned, but it is one of my most prized books. I have physically read it twice, but then out of fear of it falling apart I placed it on the shelf, only occasional opening it for a look. When I feel compelled to read the novel I use my electronic edition to re-capture that excitement, wonder, and adventure that Edgar Rice Burroughs penned in 1912.
Gary Lindberg recently posted a great feature called How Tarzan Changed My Life on his blog site Lindberg Books: Beyond Belief. I can only add to this excellent article by expanding on the influence of Burroughs on this reader and writer. His ability to transport me to far away places, to wonder at the possibilities of lost civilizations, and to heroically battle the odds made me want to read.
Before Burroughs, sitting down to read a book was a challenge. I was a product of the TV generation. I would much rather flip the dial, than turn the pages. Tarzan and John Carter would change that for me. While I enjoyed Verne (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is still awesome), Defoe, and Welles, their words seemed so formal. Burroughs created imagines in my mind. I could see it all happening right before me.
As Lindberg points out in his column other venues have diluted the purity of characters like Tarzan and the prose that made them legendary. However, today if you are at all interested most of Burroughs works have fallen into public domain, and getting a copy is now a simple download.
There is a good collection of Burroughs Novels on Gutenberg Press sorted by popularity. Is everyone a gem? I confess there are a couple of dubs in the bunch. (See ERB’s Quote above.) That’s why I suggest you use the rankings of these novels created by other readers as your guide to some great adventures.
PS: Burroughs Birthday is September 1st.