Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan of the Apes” Included Among “Books that Shaped America” Exhibit

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan, The Tarzan Files

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 PrimerThe Joy of CookingFahrenheit451 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.

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  • The first ERB book that I read was JUNGLE TALES OF TARZAN in the Grosset & Dunlap edition. I was nine and TARZAN OF THE APES was out of print at the time. To say that I was captivated would be a gross understatement. ERB had the power to transport young readers into a realm of imagination that we would never wanted to leave. For those of us who read ERB at an impressionable age, we never really left that realm for it lives in our hearts.

  • There is something very special and endearing about Burroughs’ first Tarzan novel, TARZAN OF THE APES.

  • Cool. I wished it was A Princess of Mars but I guess Tarzan does have more widespread appeal.

    And Pascalahad if you think Tarzan is cold blooded here wait until you read Tarzan the Untamed.

  • What a change from the ’60s when teachers did everything they could to discourage my interest in ERB . . . . Not only did his books help shape America, they shaped my career choice and thus my life.

  • Funny, thank to my Kobo Reader I’m in the process of reading everything Burroughs, and I’m currently half through Tarzan of the Apes. Wow. No wonder there has never been a faithful adaptation, because some of the stuff is pretty gross! Like this scene where Tarzan hangs his enemy after stalking him and finishing him off with his knife, all in cold blood. Ok the guy killed someone dear to Tarzan, but still…

    I’m surprised by how uncompromising Burroughs is with his hero up to that point. Of course he will probably acquire his moral sense later. It’s an awesome read!

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