Thoughts on Tarzan of the Apes
July 2006
Part of a special reading quest:
Famous Books No One Reads Anymore

I found an unread paperback version of Tarzan of the Apes in a ramshackle, completely unorganized used book store in Washington, DC (the books were so unorganized that I had this sudden urge to spend the rest of the afternoon putting the fiction in alphabetical order).

The book turned out to be a treat. It's no Elmer Gantry , but it is quite a lot of fun. The foreword by Gore Vidal really put the book into perspective, helping me to enjoy it even more. I knew that one of its messages, delivered through the continual killing of animals, would be "Man is the true king of beasts." But what I wasn't expecting was some rather insightful social commentary -- like that one of the African tribes engaging in particular cruelties learned such from their Belgian "colonizers." And that, in hunting, you use all that you kill, and you respect what you kill. Tarzan is a fascinating character. I particularly liked his thoughts to a group of learned men, centering around "There is as much individuality among the lower orders, gentlemen, as there is among ourselves."

And, no, none of the filmed versions have been even remotely faithful to the book -- I know 'cause I've seen them all. And that's a huge shame, because the exchanges between Professor Archimedes Q. Porter, Jane's father, and Samuel T. Philander, are hilarious.

Will definitely read the second one, as soon as I find it in a used book store.

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