Master of Adventure: The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs

By Richard A. Lupoff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
A Basic Burroughs Library

As hitherto intimated, a curious aspect of the entire Burroughs phenomenon is the fact that literally millions of men and women are quite convinced that they know all about Burroughs when they know little or nothing about him. They “know” his works as the result of seeing Tarzan motion pictures, comic strips and comic books, or they know him through his reputation which is in turn based upon the adaptations of his works to various media.

Without actually having conducted a survey on the subject, it appears that many librarians and teachers actually ban Burroughs from their shelves and classrooms… purely on the basis of reputation or adaptations. At least some of these persons, hopefully, should be sufficiently open-minded to investigate an author whose works have sold well over one hundred million copies and nearly a century after their first publication. Certainly Burroughs' popularity cannot be passed off as a mere fad. Many an author has come and gone, having achieved either critical acceptance or public popularity, or both, only to pass from the scene in a few years, seldom to be read again.

More often than not, this season's best seller is forgotten by next season, and the “book of the year” gathers dust when another year brings another book. Why have Burroughs' works lasted as they have? Why do his characters, absurdly overblown as they are, still bring a thrill of identification to the reader? I hope that this book on Burroughs has done at least something to illuminate these questions, and to suggest answers. But it is a truism that reading ponies or reviews is no substitute for reading books, and the only way to gain a real grasp of what an author attempted, what he achieved and what he failed to achieve, is to read his works.

Like that of any prolific author, Burroughs' output is of uneven quality. Several of his books have already attained the status of classics, as se

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