The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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November 9, 2012

Lee Duran: Book tells Jane's side of 'Tarzan' story

JOPLIN, Mo. — I saw the book on the library shelf and before I even picked it up, I knew what it was -- what it had to be. On the spine: "Jane," by Robin Maxwell.

A few words on the front confirmed my guess: "The Woman Who Loved Tarzan." Yippee! What a concept!

It's a new book that I'd neither heard nor read about, yet when I explored the Internet I found many feature stories and reviews, all of them positive. I also discovered that this is the 100th anniversary of the publication of the one and only "Tarzan of the Apes" by Edgar Rice Burroughs, so it's certainly timely.

I met Tarzan when my mother read the book aloud to me and my three siblings years ago. I loved it and read every other Tarzan book I could find during my formative years. And within the past year, I reread them and love them still.

Now I've almost finished "Jane" and would be reading this very moment if I wasn't writing. I like everything about the book -- even the cover, which is a wonderful depiction of Jane.

Not the Jane of the Tarzan movies, which didn't stick all that close to the book anyway. This Jane is one smart cookie, the only woman student in Cambridge University's medical program in 1905. She is the scientist daughter of a scientist and accompanies him on a trip deep into the heart of West Africa.

Betrayed by a traveling companion and attacked by a leopard, she is rescued by Tarzan, the English lord raised by the apes. So begins an adventure, and a love, she could never have imagined.

The Washington Post calls the book "a lush, romantic take on the English lord raised by primates -- told from Jane's point of view." Adds the author, "We're calling it '50 Shades of Green.'"

She's joking. There's a satisfying romance, but it's exotica, not erotica. And it's authorized by the Burroughs estate.

The Post continues: "A century after his birth, Tarzan is affixed as one of literature's most enduring creations. Edgar Rice Burroughs's archetype of primordial man in an atavistic (which means primitive -- I looked it up) jungle, more trusting of nature than mankind, struck a chord that still resonates. He is free of religion, politics, nationality and any of the oppressive rules, regulations, oversights, traffic cameras, parking tickets and other indignities imposed on modern man."

"Tarzan of the Apes" is an 80,000-word adventure about an orphaned boy in the jungle. It was a "wild sensation" when it debuted in the October 1912 edition of The All-Story Magazine. Published in book form in 1914, it was followed by 24 novels (and two for teens), selling an estimated 100 million copies in at least 35 languages.

The Library of Congress designates it as one of the "Books That Shaped America." It has been turned into 52 authorized films, a radio show, a comic strip, a Broadway musical, merchandising without end and even Tarzana, a city in California centered around Burroughs' property.

There's more marking the anniversary: "Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration," a coffee-table book featuring art, movies and stories; numerous conferences; a documentary about the first Tarzan film ("Tarzan of the Louisiana Jungle"); and a German stop-motion animated feature. Warner Brothers has picked up the option for another Tarzan flick, according to the Burroughs estate, 80 years after Olympic swimming gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller uttered that famous yell.

In 1963, Gore Vidal said of the popularity of Tarzan: "There is hardly an American male of my generation who has not at one time or another tried to master the victory cry of the great ape as it issued from the androgynous chest of Johnny Weissmuller."

This is the first of Maxwell's books that I've read, despite the fact that she's a best-selling author with a list of books that appeal to me. According to her website, she specializes in women "ahead of their time," which Jane Porter, a budding paleoanthropologist with a rebellious streak, certainly is.

I could go on, but I'd rather be reading.aBook tells Jane's side of 'Tarzan' story

I saw the book on the library shelf and before I even picked it up, I knew what it was -- what it had to be. On the spine: "Jane," by Robin Maxwell.

A few words on the front confirmed my guess: "The Woman Who Loved Tarzan." Yippee! What a concept!

It's a new book that I'd neither heard nor read about, yet when I explored the Internet I found many feature stories and reviews, all of them positive. I also discovered that this is the 100th anniversary of the publication of the one and only "Tarzan of the Apes" by Edgar Rice Burroughs, so it's certainly timely.

I met Tarzan when my mother read the book aloud to me and my three siblings years ago. I loved it and read every other Tarzan book I could find during my formative years. And within the past year, I reread them and love them still.

Now I've almost finished "Jane" and would be reading this very moment if I wasn't writing. I like everything about the book -- even the cover, which is a wonderful depiction of Jane.

Not the Jane of the Tarzan movies, which didn't stick all that close to the book anyway. This Jane is one smart cookie, the only woman student in Cambridge University's medical program in 1905. She is the scientist daughter of a scientist and accompanies him on a trip deep into the heart of West Africa.

Betrayed by a traveling companion and attacked by a leopard, she is rescued by Tarzan, the English lord raised by the apes. So begins an adventure, and a love, she could never have imagined.

The Washington Post calls the book "a lush, romantic take on the English lord raised by primates -- told from Jane's point of view." Adds the author, "We're calling it '50 Shades of Green.'"

She's joking. There's a satisfying romance, but it's exotica, not erotica. And it's authorized by the Burroughs estate.

The Post continues: "A century after his birth, Tarzan is affixed as one of literature's most enduring creations. Edgar Rice Burroughs's archetype of primordial man in an atavistic (which means primitive -- I looked it up) jungle, more trusting of nature than mankind, struck a chord that still resonates. He is free of religion, politics, nationality and any of the oppressive rules, regulations, oversights, traffic cameras, parking tickets and other indignities imposed on modern man."

"Tarzan of the Apes" is an 80,000-word adventure about an orphaned boy in the jungle. It was a "wild sensation" when it debuted in the October 1912 edition of The All-Story Magazine. Published in book form in 1914, it was followed by 24 novels (and two for teens), selling an estimated 100 million copies in at least 35 languages.

The Library of Congress designates it as one of the "Books That Shaped America." It has been turned into 52 authorized films, a radio show, a comic strip, a Broadway musical, merchandising without end and even Tarzana, a city in California centered around Burroughs' property.

There's more marking the anniversary: "Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration," a coffee-table book featuring art, movies and stories; numerous conferences; a documentary about the first Tarzan film ("Tarzan of the Louisiana Jungle"); and a German stop-motion animated feature. Warner Brothers has picked up the option for another Tarzan flick, according to the Burroughs estate, 80 years after Olympic swimming gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller uttered that famous yell.

In 1963, Gore Vidal said of the popularity of Tarzan: "There is hardly an American male of my generation who has not at one time or another tried to master the victory cry of the great ape as it issued from the androgynous chest of Johnny Weissmuller."

This is the first of Maxwell's books that I've read, despite the fact that she's a best-selling author with a list of books that appeal to me. According to her website, she specializes in women "ahead of their time," which Jane Porter, a budding paleoanthropologist with a rebellious streak, certainly is.

I could go on, but I'd rather be reading.

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