Monday, January 29, 2007

Tarzan of the Apes

Also today
Clee's new food column

It's not often that we watch television, but on Sunday evening Mr Bookworm noticed that Spain's Channel 9 was showing a film of a story he enjoyed as a schoolboy, Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The movie, made in 1983 and starring Christopher Lambert, was called Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and you can read a plot summary at CD Universe.



Extract : "GREYSTOKE is a spellbinding screen version of Edgar Rice Burroughs's 1914 classic tale. Tarzan (Christopher Lambert), the seventh Earl of Greystoke, is raised by a family of apes after he is lost as a child in the jungles of Africa. Captain Phillipe D'Arnot (Ian Holm), a Belgian explorer, discovers the adult Tarzan, now lord of the apes, and reintroduces him to the English language and to the British aristocracy. Tarzan becomes John Clayton and is taken to meet his elderly grandfather, the sixth Earl of Greystoke (Ralph Richardson), and his beautiful American ward, Jane Porter (Andie MacDowell). Living in a grand estate instead of in the trees of the African jungle proves daunting for the struggling student of British formality, but he is protected by his loving and eccentric grandfather. Jane continues to teach him about life in British society and before long has captivated John, who must learn how to deal with the strong emotions of human love. John and Jane begin their courtship despite the disapproval of British high society and are eventually engaged to be married. In the wake of family tragedy, John is forced to face his responsibility to the Greystoke family, but he is unable to reconcile his mounting distaste for modern civilization. Ultimately, he finds himself torn between his animal and human families and is forced to make a profound decision about his future. "




Rice Burroughs' first book at Tarzan was originally published in a "pulp magazine" in 1912, followed by a book edition in 1914. "So popular was the character the Burroughs continued the series into the 1940s with two dozen sequels."

Next month I'm going to read a chapter a day at Literature.org The text is online at several other sites.

Wikipedia has interesting entries about Tarzan and about
the author.





What I find particularly interesting is Burroughs reaction to the book's success.

"Burroughs liked to think of himself as a hard-headed businessman and concluded that he could make an even better living if he founded his own company. And so in 1923 Burroughs became an employee of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. This was an unusual step for an author to take, although it is now quite common. Burroughs would even start publishing his own books, beginning in 1931 with Tarzan the Invincible. The last book to appear under the Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. imprint was I am a Barbarian in 1967."

I also found this -

"Tarzan was a cultural sensation when introduced. Burroughs was determined to capitalize on Tarzan's popularity in every way possible. He planned to exploit Tarzan through several different media including a syndicated Tarzan comic strip, movies, and merchandise. Experts in the field advised against this course of action, stating that the different media would just end up competing against each other. Burroughs went ahead, however, and proved the experts wrong—the public wanted Tarzan in whatever fashion he was offered. Tarzan remains one of the most successful fictional characters to this day and is a cultural icon. In 1923 Burroughs set up his own company, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., and began printing his own books through the 1930s."

But perhaps the most interesting snippet, from the Wikipedia pages on ERB, is this comment attributed to him -
"...if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines."

"Aiming his work at the 'pulp' magazines then in circulation, his first story "Under the Moons of Mars" was serialized in All-Story magazine in 1912 and earned Burroughs US$400 (roughly the equivalent of US$7600 in 2004)."

I remember thinking along similar lines when an elderly Bristol landlady introduced me to Mills & Boon romances. Not that I would have described her favourite novels quite as witheringly as "rot", but I did feel it wouldn't be difficult to write one in my spare moments between reporting assignments for the Western Daily Press.

However, the book advance plus the Woman's Own serial rights came to only £405 [in 1955] so I don't think I did as well financially as ERB on his first sortie into print.

PS According to Measuring Worth,"In 2006, £405 0s 0d from 1955 is worth £7,332.80 using the retail price index" so maybe I did do as well as ERB. But, alas, I never had a book idea as inspired as Tarzan of the Apes.

Clee's new food column


If you're into cooking, you may remember that on 4 June 2006, I wrote about Nicholas Clee's book Don't Sweat the Aubergine. Yesterday I discovered he has started to write a food column for the New Statesman, in addition to his Sceptical Cook, "a blog about everyday cooking, and how to make it work".

10 Comments:

At 31 January, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another interesting item about Edgar Rice Burroughs, is that when he sold his first story and was sent the contract (along with the cheque), he actually read and understood the contract. The contract contained language about selling all rights, including the characters contained in the story.

Although in desperate need of cash, he did not cash the cheque, (which would have signalled his acceptance of the contract) but wrote back to the publisher, saying that he was only interested in selling the story for use in the publication, not in selling his characters.

So, because he actually read and understood the contact, he was able to keep the rights to his characters, and was able to make a lot of money from merchandising.

Just thought I'd add that snippet.

I'm glad to see you publishing every day, Anne, and I hope you can keep it up (with no more computer glitches).

Lorna
Sacramento, CA

 
At 31 January, 2007, Anonymous Jane said...

I loved "Don't Sweat the Aubergine" so thank you for letting us know about his "Sceptical Cook" site. I have read about fried potatoes, hash, rhubarb and swedes, all comfort foods that I love. It is almost as good as eating them.

Thanks again Anne

 
At 04 February, 2007, Blogger Adrian Weston said...

New Statesman has has some very fine food and drink writers - my favourite was easily Bee Wilson who has recently published a rather magnificent book called The Hive. Well worth reading...

Sadly New Statesman's standards of cookery writing are much depleted these days. Occasional pieces by Michele Roberts who is an awesome novelist but a terrible food writer (odd as she does food well in ner novels..) and then really really irritating and rather stupid pieces by William Skidelsky who is the paper's book's page editor a job he does rather better than food writing...
Rather sad, really.

 
At 17 February, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tarzan published in 1912 All-Story not 1914. The gentleman will be 100-years-old in 2012.

 
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At 20 February, 2012, Blogger mrblack said...

Another interesting item about Edgar Rice Burroughs, is that when he sold his first story and was sent the contract (along with the cheque), he actually read and understood the contract. The contract contained language about selling all rights, including the characters contained in the story.
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