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Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (Wold Newton #1)

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  490 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
Through the tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs, generations of readers have thrilled to the adventures of Lord Greystoke (aka John Clayton, but better known as Tarzan of the Apes). In this biography Philip José Farmer pieces together the life of this fantastic man, correcting Burroughs’s errors and deliberate deceptions and tracing Tarzan's family tree back to other extraordina ...more
Paperback, 316 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Bison Books (first published 1972)
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The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettFarewell, My Lovely by Raymond ChandlerTarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice BurroughsThe Best of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft
Best of the Pulp Magazine Authors and Literature
77th out of 348 books — 158 voters
It Lives in The Basement by Sahara FoleyThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan MooreThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2 by Alan MoorePlanetary, Vol. 4 by Warren EllisThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 by Alan Moore
Crossover Fiction
20th out of 80 books — 31 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,087)
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Lucas Garrett
Apr 28, 2012 Lucas Garrett rated it it was amazing
Imagine, if you will, that you were told that the heroes and villains of popular fiction exist in our world, or are/were based on people, who at one time or another, existed alongside us. What would you think? With Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke, award-winning author Philip Jose Farmer tells an intricate tale that will cause you to wonder that very question. In his story, Farmer reveals the truth behind Edgar Rice Burroughs's greatest literary hero: John Clayton, Eighth D ...more
May 07, 2014 Michael marked it as to-read
Shelves: biography, erb
CREATIVE MYTHOGRAPHY ist die schönste Gattungsbezeichnung für Farmers Buch.
Mar 09, 2008 R. marked it as to-read
Found at last! Where? Why at the local - and best in Eastern Washington - independent bookstore, Adventures Underground! Go underground and have an adventure at! Why? Because Tarzan would.
Feb 12, 2016 Anthony rated it it was amazing
First thing to note: Officially, there are 312 pages in this book (or 316 if you go by Amazon's listing), just as there were in the original edition. But this current edition also includes lxxiii pages of additional material: a new foreword, new introduction, and several of Farmer's Tarzan pieces that have appeared until now only separately from the main text.

The new foreword by Win Scott Eckert winscotteckert delves into the history of "creative mythography," putting Farmer's works directly in
Jeremy DeBottis
Jun 15, 2015 Jeremy DeBottis rated it it was ok
This book is a great concept. A biography of a fictional character. My understanding is that it incorporates a great deal of references to original Tarzan stories, but I have only a surface knowledge of the character so that sort of fell flat with me.

I think the part of this that was the most difficult for me was that it was a story about a legend, a hero, and it just mentions all these amazing tales without making them feel as exciting or thrilling as they probably would have been if any were g
Eric Bauman
Jun 19, 2014 Eric Bauman rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
This book was recommended to me by a friend, who is a devotee of the Wold-Newton universe (I think I spelled that right), which is a shared universe where (as I understand it) the antecedents of a bunch of literary figures (such as Tarzan, Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes and others), who were all pregnant and all together in or near a village were exposed to strange emanations from a meteor that fell to Earth in the early eighteenth century.

This book was a biography of Lord Greystoke, also known as
Farmer gives us not only a biography of Tarzan, but explains how all pulp fiction actually connects into huge family tree/conspiracy that has been influencing history for centuries.
It's brilliant stuff
Farmer plays it so straight forward and treats it as though he is writing a biography of a real person that you are drawn in and find yourself believing it might all be true.

Jan 23, 2009 Will rated it really liked it
I had so much fun as a kid reading this. The world Newton Family and the connections between all those literary heroes struck me as such a cool idea when I was younger. I wish I still owned a copy. -- I preferred the Doc Savage companion book to this one only because I read more of Doc's books.
May 18, 2009 Freder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful conceit. As in his fictional biography of Doc Savage, Farmer goes a little too far trying to tie every pulp hero ever created into Lord Greystoke's family tree, but that's a minor criticism for a piece of literary gamesmanship as good as this.
Jul 27, 2008 Charles rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I have the Playboy edition of this book. It's pretty interesting. I enjoyed it, but it rambled around quite a lot.
Axel M.
Mar 11, 2015 Axel M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp, crossover
"Dies ist die Biographie eines lebenden Menschen."
Damit fängt "Tarzan Alive" an und besteht auch darauf. Es ist nicht nur die "wahre Geschichte" von John Clayton, Earl Greystoke, die der intelligenteste und hinterlistigste aller Fans, der unvergessene Philipp José Farmer, hier enthüllt, sondern die "geheime Geschichte der Welt".
Denn Tarzan ist nicht nur eine real existierende Person, er ist auch verwandt mit anderen legendären Personen wie dem Großen Detektiv Mr. S. Holmes, Dr. Clark Savage Jr.
Mar 03, 2011 Velvetink rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy, z-1970-s
Really liked it when I read it as a kid. Have to read it again to comment.
May 28, 2007 Doug rated it it was amazing
It's art masquerading as trash masquerading as biography.
Oct 30, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tarzan is real and ERB helped cover up the real story. Not only that, but a lot of your other great literary figures of the age are real too...and often related!

While I found the book interesting, it read more like a correction of B's Tarzan books thn a story. It's like he had the idea for a story, wrote down his details, got bored, and then just published his ideas with linking sentences between them.

If you just are curious and want to see someone make Tarzan seem 'possible', give this book a t
Aug 11, 2013 John rated it did not like it
I was excited to read this book even though I have not read or seen much of Tarzan. I thought the concept sounded interesting and I am planning on Reading Farmer's Sherlock Holmes story, "The Peerless Peer". I thought this would be a good background story for the Holmes book. "Tarzan: Alive", to me at least, seems like it would only appeal to diehard Tarzan fans. The book really does not read like a story but more of a summary of Burroughs' Tarzan stories. There are so many names thrown about of ...more
Jul 22, 2011 Benedek rated it it was ok
The premise of this book is that Edgar Rice Burroughs met Tarzan as an old man, and Tarzan (Lord Greystoke) told Burroughs the 'true' story of Tarzan's life, which Burroughs used when writing his novels. Philip Jose Farmer expands on this by making himself a character in the narrative and investigating the truth behind Burroughs' stories and the lineage of Tarzan. Along the way, Farmer 'discovers' that Tarzan is related to a number of other literary characters, like Sherlock Holmes and Professor ...more
David B
Nov 27, 2014 David B rated it really liked it
Philip Jose Farmer has a lot of fun with the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs character. This book is a "biography" which supposes that the Tarzan novels tell the story of a real figure, albeit much fictionalized to protect his true identity. Farmer separates the "fact" from the fiction and also traces the jungle lord's kinship with such other notable figures as Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, the Shadow, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. An entertaining read, although often very poorly written.
Apr 03, 2014 Cairnraiser rated it really liked it
How would Tarzan's life have looked had he been real and not fictional?

Farmer's work plays with this idea and shows us how Burroughs got some facts wrong and modified others in order to protect the real Lord Greystoke from discovery.

Fascinating exploration of Burroughs Tarzan books through an anthropological and psychological lens. How would a near-feral man fare in the modern/civilized world?

People who enjoy digging into the background and psyches of literary heroes will find this book worthwhi
Guy Dayen
Jan 09, 2016 Guy Dayen rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, this one. Any fan of Tarzan will love this biography of the real Lord Greystoke, and will be in awe when discovering his amazing family tree. Highly recommended.
Timothy Boyd
Jan 27, 2016 Timothy Boyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good bio of the jungle lord. Farmer does a great job tracing the family tree back through the generations. Very recommended
Joe  Noir
Jan 18, 2013 Joe Noir rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-fantasy
Great new edition of a terrific book. This Bison Books edition adds Farmer's "exclusive interview with Lord Greystoke (from Esquire magazine) and "Extracts from the memoirs of "Lord Greystoke" (from "Mother Was A Lovely Beast"). The problem being, the editors placed these at the start of the book, instead of added as appendices, and I feel they slow the book down before it even begins. Also, this edition does not include the Wold Newton family tree chart from earlier editions. Great cover art by ...more
Riju Ganguly
Sep 21, 2011 Riju Ganguly rated it really liked it
An entertaining book that tries to tell the story of Tarzan, i.e. Lord Greystoke, while trying to reconcile numerous inconsistencies scattered across the works of Burroughs and the "facts" about other famous personalities whom we commonly know as citizens of the "Wold Newton" universe. It is good, and written in the typically lean style of Philip Jose Farmer, although, his 'biography' of Doc Savage was more entertaining. Recommended to lovers of PJF as well as those who now miss the wonderfully ...more
May 18, 2014 Joe rated it it was amazing
what if Tarzam but real
David Bonesteel
Jun 13, 2013 David Bonesteel rated it really liked it
Philip Jose Farmer has a lot of fun with the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs character. This book is a "biography" which supposes that the Tarzan novels tell the story of a real figure, albeit much fictionalized to protect his true identity. Farmer seperates the "fact" from the fiction and also traces the jungle lord's kinship with such other notable figures as Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, the Shadow, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. An entertaining read, although often very poorly written.
Darren Murr
Dec 28, 2011 Darren Murr rated it really liked it
I picked this up as I had heard that Farmer's Wold Newton was a formative influence on Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentleman series, which I love. For the most part I found this fascinating. Farmer obviously has a deep affection for Burroughs and Tarzan, and they way he plays with histories of famous characters is fascinating. For the most part, a great read - but some of the appendices were a bit dry and hard going.
Robert Morganbesser
Feb 26, 2013 Robert Morganbesser rated it it was amazing
An absolutely brilliant book. The truth behind the legend, this is the biography of the man we know as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, King of the Great Apes, lord of the Waziri, Tarzan of the Apes. Not a book that can be set down easily, this biography, by the brilliant Philip Jose Farmer, breaths more life into the legend, while it does wink at the audience, it never insults the reader. A simply great book.
Jan 18, 2016 Beth rated it liked it
Very odd, fun premise but a bit too long for itself.
Bill Bleuel
Better in concept than execution, but - oh! what a concept! Sadly, Farmer gets too caught up in minutae that only the most rabid Tarzan fan will appreciate. Still, Farmer is a gifted writer and the "Wold Newton" concept is brilliant and Farmer's ability to turn pulp hero Tarzan into some semblance of a real person is a gift not to be taken likely. Now if only his biography of Doc Savage was in print!
Joe Collier
Nov 05, 2011 Joe Collier rated it it was amazing
Alternate history meets literary biography geek in this clever, throughly "researched" biography of Tarzan (a fictional character). Farmer manages to connect Tarzan up with an amazing array of literature's most noted characters, as well as real historical figures. And if you like this one, be sure and check out Farmer's "biography" of pulp fiction mainstay Doc Savage.
Nov 19, 2009 Karlo rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, alt-history
This was less of a pleasure and more of an exercise. I appreciate the craft of what Farmer was attempting to do here, and the larger context that the Wold Newton framework offers fans of alt-history. The writing is good, but my lack of knowledge in the source books left me at a slight disadvantage here, and may have affected my enjoyment of the book.
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Philip José Farmer was an American author, principally known for his science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. He was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, but spent much of his life in Peoria, Illinois.

Farmer is best known for his Riverworld series and the earlier World of Tiers series. He is noted for his use of sexual and religious themes in his work, his fascination for and reworking of th
More about Philip José Farmer...

Other Books in the Series

Wold Newton (5 books)
  • Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life
  • The Adventure of the Peerless Peer
  • The Other Log of Phileas Fogg
  • Myths for the Modern Age: Wold Newton Universe

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