Tarzan of the Apes (Book Club)

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Fierce Vowelless One
Apr 25, 2003
Help! I'm stuck in the forums!
Please begin the discussion of July's title, Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

My first thoughts:
1) This is a much older book, does it stand the test of time? Or do some of the thoughts and ideas presented betray its age?
2) Any thoughts on the comments the author was trying to present?
3) Was he trying to present comments on something or was he just telling a story?

Go on, you can do it :p
I started to read it....the first half went by for me quickly but then it started to slow down. So much of it seemed too fantastical to me. Obviously, writing a book like this takes serious poetic lisence with the subject matter but a man raised by apes teaching himself to read? I have a few other books going so I haven't read more of this lately but I'll give it a try again.
The idea of the story is pretty out there, that's for sure. It was a quick read (especially since I had nothing else to do other than feel sorry for myself) so I whizzed through it.

I found the author to have taken way too much license with coincidence, animal beliefs/thoughts and the power of one human to become superhuman in so short a time. The ending was the only partially believeable bit of it all. No happy ever after - no Jane living in the forest or Tarzan living in civilization to be near Jane.
I hope people didn't approach this expecting it to be a logical, realistic read. The joy of it is the fact that it is absolutely impossible, and yet just plausible enough that you don't throw it down in disgust. It is very much a pure fantasy, but without any dragons or magic.

As to the ending, there is a sequel, in which all the worry with Miss Porter is solved. There are many Tarzan books, but the first can stand alone as a work and is very enjoyable. I know that a lot of the ideas presented are ridiculous or out-dated, but it never really hurts the story. And the first part, about Tarzan alone in the jungle, is for me one of the most memorable things I've ever read. So, even if the book has very little literary merit except as a study in fantasy and a few musings on the brutality of man, I think it works very well and is a landmark of the adventure genre.

At least it was better than any film ever made about the character by about tenfold.
Haven't yet read my copy, but I have read his John Carter books, a few of the other Tarzan books and I'd have to say, yes, you must suspend your disbelief with Burroughs' works. It's glorious, pulpy adventure and if you must analyse it, there really is little more than archetypal wish-fulfillment. And fun. I'd guess it's worth reading in a historical perspective as well, to see how it has contributed to or been a part of the genre's history.
I really wish I could have read this. I suppose it is worth mentioning (although it probably has been before, somewhere around here), that the town of Tarzana, California (in Los Angeles County) was named after Tarzan. And, ironic as it is, the library in Tarzana actually banned the Tarzan books from its shelves for a period of time, on account of the fact that Tarzan and Jane were not married.

And that's my trivia for the day, contributed not because I have any illusions that anyone really cares;) , but just because I thought this thread needed at least one more post.

I'm in a bit of an odd mood tonight, as you may be able to tell. Sunday nights are like that sometimes.
I read the Tarzan books (most if not all of them) when I was a young teenager. I loved them and read a lot of his other books also. I loved them then but have not even seen them since I was 16ish (I actually wondered what happened to all the books but not enough to actually ask my dad).
As far as being fantasy - My main definition of fantasy is magic or some power. The Tarzan books do not meet this definition. I would say they are a branch of science fiction (his other books are more obviously science fiction). But you could say a branch of fantasy of you want.
They did not lead me to read other scifi or fantasy (except similar books - the Gor books were the only ones I remember). That came several years later when I read The Hobbit and Dune.
If you have to suspend belief to read most scifi and fantasy, why can't you suspend belief for Tarzan.
They were nothing more than pulp fiction. But they were still better than any of the movies, and that includes the so called "cloest to the book" movie that came out in the 80's.
Oh yah - these books are seriously dated with regards to a condescending and colonialist attitude towards Africa. This is one of the beliefs you have to suspend.
dwndrgn said:
Please begin the discussion of July's title, Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

My first thoughts:

1) This is a much older book, does it stand the test of time? Or do some of the thoughts and ideas presented betray its age?
Over all, yes, I think it does pass the test of time. New readers can pick up the novel and enjoy it just as easily as when it was first published. Can readers tell it is not written within the last decade? Certainly. It really has the vintage, pulp-fiction feel to the storytelling: something that ages it, yet it's the paramount ingredient that enables it to be enjoyed currently.

One of the tall-tale signs of aging would be the more naive view on some other "primitive" cultures. The handling of the natives--often portrayed savage and villainous compared even to an older, insecure ape---was done in a manner that I don't believe could be done today without sounding some racial alarms.

Another wrinkle would have to be the central subject matter. The idea of a noble man being raised by apes is not something I can imagine being written today except for on a children book level or, in quite the opposite direction, done so in a cunningly cynical way. Sometimes I long for the time when literature meant even for adults could still retain some of that simplistic and straight forward storytelling. Our age of pulp fiction has become overrun exclusively by comic books and novels/serials based on a television show/video game/movie/rpg.

I have read the first six or seven novels of the Tarzan series and, although none of the following could ever recapture the magic of the first two novels, Burroughs held firm to the Tarzan formula.

dwndrgn said:
2) Any thoughts on the comments the author was trying to present?
I find it interesting that the author presented a story that disrupted the main character's future grooming in his high birth social standing and then, at the end (okay, at the invitation to pick up the following book), forced him in the society he was meant for but now alien to.

dwndrgn said:
3) Was he trying to present comments on something or was he just telling a story?
No, I think he was really just trying to tell a fun story. I don't read anything into it beyond the surface plot themes. Was he trying to lecture on the class structure? I doubt it. I think that is something that readers looking back at the books are more likely to see than what was actually intended.
I have read almost every book Edgar Rice Burroughs ever wrote including all of the Tarzan books. I found the books interesting enough to read to my son as bedtime stories. I have never detected any deep pholiosphical thoughts in any of the books. I believe Burroughs was just telling a good story, however, he certainly had an influnce on other writers and his themes have been widely copied. By today's standards his works seem simplistic and even racist, but they have to be interpreted in terms of the era in which they were written. As far as I know Burroughs did not do any writing after about 1950 and his books reflect the values of the first half of the twentieth century.

The first book, Tarzan of the Apes is a classic and one of my favourites. It requires a certain acceptance of Burroughs' world, a world in which he invented a tribe of sentient apes that seem to be a cross between chimpanzees and gorllas. However, it is all pretty good fun and the storyline is well thought out and full of the twists and turns typical of all of Burroughs' writing. I could quite cheerfully read it again.
Tarzan of the Apes is easily the best pulp novel ever written. Burroughs was a writer with an imagination well ahead of his time.

The books tend to drag on as the series gets old, the last few books written were not nearly as good as the first few written. Many believe Tarzan and the Lion Man to be one of the, if not the best of the Tarzan novels. I think this is mainly due to the subject matter, Burroughs wrote this book after MGM put out a Tarzan movie that was not faithful to the source material at all. You should read this novel and you will understand what hatred Burroughs had for the movies that were made.
I read the book and , I liked it . I read a few of the book in the series but it got receptive ever less plausible.
Wow, what a necro!

By the time I finished 6th grade, I had read the first 5 Tarzans and the first 4 or so John Carters. These are still my favorites to reread every now and then.

Burroughs was a good story teller.

And regarding the racist claim, actually, he wasn't. He often was making a minor dig at the racism of his day. Note the Waziri of the Tarzan books - they were certainly not savages.
Read this aged 12. My dad gave it to me when I was at the podgy, pimply, flat-chested, self-hating stage. "I think you'll like this..." he said - and I loved it. Read it many times and still have that very copy. So, fond memories. But I remember being troubled by Burroughs' "great apes"; which I was pretty sure didn't exist!
Are you sure you liked it, Baylor? This was the Book Club book for July 2004. It sure took you a long time to read it!
Sometimes , ive been known to read a book very slowly to get all the nuances of story , setting and characters .;)
Weird post to bring back - especially as the OP made a hash of kicking it off - suggestion for discussion #1 carries an obvious response and suggestions #2 & #3 are the same.
While I'm here, though... I thoroughly enjoyed it. I read it about 17 years too late for the book club, but I was quicker than Baylor.
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