Tag Archives: literary oddities

Tarzan

“The famous foundling reared by apes in the African jungle was created in 1912 by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), Tarzan has had countless adventures in novels and films, in which he communes with animals, rescues damsels in distress and discovers long lost civilizations. The first novel of 24 in which he appears is Tarzan of the Apes (1914). In the ‘monkey language’ that Burroughs invented for him, his name means ‘white’ from tar, and zan, ‘skin.’ He is given this name by his foster-mother, Kala the ape. The name came to be adopted for any apparent ‘he-man’ and was bestowed by the media on the Conservative politician Michael Heseltine (b. 1933), not only for his height and blond hair but also with reference to an incident of 1976 when he brandished the House of Commons mace to protect it. Tarzana, now a suburban residential section of Los Angeles, was named in honour of Tarzan.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Rotten Rejections: Typee

“It is impossible that it could be true and therefore it is without real value.”

Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

The Devil’s Dictionary: Adage

“Adage, n. [1.] Boned wisdom for weak teeth. [2.] A hoary-headed platitude that is kicked along the centuries until nothing is left of it but its clothes. A ‘saw’ which has worn out its teeth on the human understanding.”

Ambrose Bierce

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000. 

Rotten Reviews: Of Human Bondage

Largely a record of sordid realism.”

Athenaeum

“Its ethics are frankly pagan.”

The Independent

Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

The Devil’s Dictionary: Amateur

“Amateur, n. A public nuisance who mistakes taste for skill, and confounds his ambition with his ability.” 

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000.

Rotten Reviews: Appointment in Samarra

“There is a thorough-going vulgarity in this book, characteristic of its class, which is a symptom of a lack of knowledge of the novelist’s real art…I mean an insufferable vulgarity, which has crept into so many of our supposedly advanced novels that someone not squeamish, not unread in earlier literatures, must protest against what is cheapening American fiction…what has happened to these young Americans? Do they think that living in a county the most vigorous, the most complex, the most problematical, the most interesting bar none in the world, we are going to be content with sour pap like this? And the tragedy is that they are clever; if they could see, they could write.”

H.S. Canby, Saturday Review of Literature

Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

Rotten Reviews: Mourning Becomes Electra

[This Rotten Review refers to a performance of Eugene O’Neill’s play in London in 1961.]

Mourning Becomes Electra is hollow.”

Bernard Levin, Daily Express

Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.