Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"Claptrap Classics," by Edgar R. Burroughs

In 1964, Dover Publications reprinted two Edgar Rice Burroughs books as a single paperback volume, A Princess of Mars and A Fighting Man of Mars: Two Martian Novels (1917, 1931). The release of this
“Martian duo” was marked by a humorous magazine article which appeared in the August 21, 1964 issue of Time magazine. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs of that article:
A curious thing happened to Edgar Rice Burroughs on the way to oblivion. When the 74-year-old novelist died in 1950, most of his 24 Tarzan books and ten Martian sagas were long out of print and far out of vogue. Then in 1961, a lady librarian in California removed a Tarzan book from the shelf on the grounds that the Ape Man and Jane were living in sin. Actually, as Burroughs went out of his way to establish in The Return of Tarzan, the two were properly married in the bush by Jane's father, an ordained minister. But the nationwide newspaper publicity over Tarzan prompted paperback publishers to burrow into the Burroughs estate. ...

Why 10 million paperback readers a year should beat a path to this convoluted claptrap is anyone's guess. Perhaps, suggests Psychiatrist Frederic Wertham, Burroughs appeals to a reader's "primitive instincts." A more likely explanation is that the books induce the same kind of "dreamless and refreshing sleep" that overtakes John Carter when he breathes the atmosphere of Mars.
In trying unsuccessfully to find the cover art of A Princess of Mars and A Fighting Man of Mars: Two Martian Novels, we did find a gallery of other Barsoom paperback covers maintained by Russ Kirkman. Great stuff. Thanks, Russ!

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