Turns out Tarzan of the Apes has been included in a Library of Congress Exhibit of the “Books that Shaped America”.
WASHINGTON — A new Library of Congress exhibition, “The Books That Shaped America,” ignores the familiar high-culture shibboleths (Western Canon by Harold Bloom and Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce) and embraces tomes that most people know and many have read.
Among them: McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer, The Joy of Cooking, Fahrenheit451 by Ray Bradbury, Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett and books by Dr. Seuss and Dr. Spock.
With a run through Sept. 29 in the Thomas Jefferson Building, the exhibit — with its titles chosen by the library staff through considerable wrangling — displays what one might call the classics of upset and troublemaking.
Many of the books, when first published, shocked people, made them angry or shook their deepest beliefs. They shamed readers with accounts of greed, racism, corruption, puritanism and provincial narrow-mindedness.
“The Books That Shaped America” underscores that, in the United States, anything might be questioned, nothing is set in stone and everything could be changed. The nation, after all, is grounded in revolution.
Self-transformation becomes the great American theme. So the show has the Benjamin Franklin autobiography, a stirring guidebook to personal improvement; the Frederick Douglass account of his years of slavery and his escape from it; and Walden, the Henry David Thoreau argument for self-fulfillment no matter what the opinions of society.
Here, too, is one of Horatio Alger Jr.’s rags-to-riches novels, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ great jungle bildungsroman Tarzan of the Apes, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, in which the poor boy James Gatz dreams of all the glittering prizes.