Steven Ross has written a nice piece entitled “Further Reading: Edgar Rice Burroughs” in Shelf Awareness. It’s exciting to see the promotion for John Carter beginning to stimulate “read the book” conversations, and we are fully supportive of each and every one of this. I was particularly struck by one line in this report — that Burroughs “outsold Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner combined”. That is thought provoking.
Further Reading: Edgar Rice Burroughs
by Steven Ross
Excitement is building for the March release of the Hunger Games film, but there is another major book-based movie coming out that month, adapted from a 100-year-old novel that was “the Rosetta Stone of modern science fiction.”
Disney’s John Carter is based on the first of an 11-book series of Martian Tales by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who also created Tarzan of the Apes. John Carter is an ageless soldier who is mysteriously transported from Earth to Mars (aka “Barsoom”). Gravity is lighter on Mars; Carter discovers that he has superhuman strength, and is “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” What follows is a classic planetary romance: boy meets princess (of Mars), boy loses princess, boy swordfights his way around an alien world and rescues princess.
In his heyday, Burroughs was one of America’s wealthiest and most popular authors (he outsold Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Faulkner combined). In the 1960s, Burroughs’s stories gained a new following of baby-boomer boys when his works were reprinted as inexpensive paperbacks, with colorful covers depicting half-naked heroes and buxom heroines battling monsters of every description. However, educators discouraged children from reading his “trash,” and his books were banned from some libraries. Despite such attempts at suppression, the influence of Burroughs’s stories goes far and deep into American pop culture.