Ben Loory's Reviews > Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Aug 28, 2009

it was amazing

holy shit! i am bashing my head against the wall for never having read this book before!

i always thought edgar rice burroughs was supposed to be a joke... like, pulpy nonsense... lots of over-emoting... i don't know what...

but this book is amazing! i mean, yeah, there's a certain awkwardness to the prose (which almost made me quit a couple pages in, it seemed so bad)... but that awkwardness turns out to be a screenwriter's awkwardness; the awkwardness of a writer who thinks in desires and movement and images and goals and hardly even sees the words on the page. but there's no preciousness to it-- he's not a bad poet, he's just a guy who says what he means and moves on. after five or six pages, the awkwardness fades into a style and what you have left is pure story, distilled, nonstop, every sentence moving inexorably forward. never a misstep, never anything out of the place or beside the point. every scene is a great little story, every chapter is a great bigger story, and the book as a whole is just wonderful. i got chills on the last page as it all came together (despite the awkwardness of the last couple sentences).

really, this book could not have surprised me more.

yes, there are problems. once tarzan leaves the jungle to go to paris (!) and america, suddenly we have to listen to people talk and that is harder for burroughs to pull off, he's a lot better with action and description than he is with dialogue. there's this background racism "problem," which i'm sure some people will care about though to me mostly it just seems funny. this biggest problem i had was with some of the minor characters who are played for laughs. they seemed out of place. i don't mind comic relief but walk-on clowns are not appreciated.

whatever, it's not borges, but i'm sure borges would have been delighted by it. i wonder if he read it? he must have.

When Tarzan killed he more often smiled than scowled, and smiles are the foundation of beauty.

also, i never really thought about it before, but there's a pretty good chance tarzan is the most well-known literary figure in the world. or at least my world. i mean who could beat him? he's about 7000 miles ahead of gatsby, holden caulfield, and hamlet. i'm sure he beats sherlock holmes. and it's amazing he was only invented 100 years ago. tarzan seems like an age-old myth. but he's not. he's just some guy this guy made up one day and wrote this book about him. good stuff, man. i say god damn.

also, was king kong just a rip on tarzan? it sure seems like it from here. same symbols and themes, just everything's flipped around.

i am going to be very happy to put this on the shelf next to Austerlitz!
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Reading Progress

08/26/2009 page 50
22.94% "first thing you notice: it's terribly written. second thing you notice: it's fucking great!"
08/28/2009 page 166
76.15% "this book is spectacular! i love it, love it, love it!"
04/18/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Jason I'm glad to see you enjoyed this. I'm about 60 pages in and loving it so far.

I didn't see The Jungle Books in your books. Have you read that? I loved those, though I wish I had read just the Mowgli stories which I think you can get in one collection. You might want to check them out some day since you liked Tarzan so much.


message 2: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Loory I have not read the jungle book! It is always on my list but I never seem to get to it. I'll bump it up a few notches. Thanks for the tip!


Jason ... Just finished it... I feel like I've been sucker punched... It's getting five stars, but I also want to give it one out of spite due to the ending, specifically the last couple of pages. Good God, what a treat this was to read.


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