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Book reviews for "Taliaferro,_John" sorted by average review score:

Charles M. Russell: The Life and Legend of America's Cowboy Artist
Published in Hardcover by Univ of Oklahoma Pr (Trd) (2003)
Author: John Taliaferro
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"No one comes close"!
As a young boy he heard the words of Horace Greely, and indeed went west to seek fame, fortune, and adventure. After two years with Jake Hoover in the Judith, his dreams of wranglin', and ropin' came true at the O H ranch. Over time the home of the "Big Sky Country" became his perminant domain, and his mother Miss Montana, she blessed her son with a gift that would speek for many of his kind that ventured before him. He illustrated with brush, and canvas. He wrote in scripture, and sculptured in bronze. With his gift, C M Russell was able to protray what it was like to live in a time when spurs, the six-gun, and the feel of leather was a cowhands only cherrished parcel. He became the "Cowboys Cowboy", and the voice of the "Red-Man". Montana's dearest son had done what she wanted him to do. Russell for those who knew him was Loving, Kind, and Loyal. He never forgot his roots, no matter where he traveled. In the end Montana was more than proud of him. For she had raised him as Montanan. Over the years he became a Montanan. And at the end of the trail, he was buried as a Montanan.

Published in Paperback by Scribner (2002)
Author: John Taliaferro
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Did Mr. Taliaferro really read ERB's works?
I found Tarzan Forever well written, and often very entertaining and interesting, but very often just plain dead wrong - from badly and broadly misinterpreting texts, such as Lost on Venus (which Taliaferro just didn't get), to many specific mistakes.

Taliaferro regards Lost on Venus an example of Burroughs "climb[ing] on his favorite high horse, eugenics." (page 265) Specifically, Taliaferro refers to Burroughs' creation of Havatoo, a city-state in which eugenics has run amok, concluding that this nightmare city was an ERB utopia. But the depiction of Havatoo is Swiftian - gullible Carson can see only roses at first, but finds after many hair-raising adventures that the Havatoo are as spiritually dead as a race of zombies that occupy a city on the other side of the "River of Death" which separates the two cities. Utopia? Not even close!

And here's an example of a specific error: Taliaferro cites Carson's knowledge of aeronautics as the fact that persuaded the rulers of a kingdom on Venus to spare him. (page 266) But aeronautics came up much later. It was Carson's knowledge of astronomy that saved him. An unimportant detail, maybe, but Taliaferro's book is rife with such errors.

A mistake I found even more annoying - if not downright devious - was Taliaferro's claim that "on the final page" of Apache Devil, Shoz-Dijiji (the Apache Devil of the title) tells his sweetheart, Wichita Billings, "that he is white, nimbly sidestepping the unspeakable eventuality of miscegenation, a well-exercised Burroughs taboo." (page 224) This is as untrue as it is ridiculous! Shoz-Dijiji only tells Wichita he has a secret (i.e., that he is "white") to tell her later. But he never utters his secret to Wichita on the final page - or any other page of Burroughs' novel. In fact, Wichita professes her love for him despite his American Indian heritage. More to the point, as Taliaferro himself notes, Shoz-Dijiji's mother was "one quarter Cherokee." (page 216) Thus, Shoz-Dijiji, one of Burroughs' noblest heroes, not only is mistaken as to his racial heritage, he is also the product of the so-called "Burroughs taboo" against miscegenation! Here, we find a familiar Burroughs theme - individual honor and integrity are what matter, not the color of one's skin.

Those who have aired the tired old claim that Burroughs was a racist, and Taliaferro is solidly in this camp, have simply not been willing to recognize the subtleties of the Burroughs canon (yes, even adventure yarns can be morally ambiguous and complicated). Instead of reading Burroughs' works carefully, with an ear for the era in which they were written, Taliaferro and others skim the books and draw hasty, misinformed conclusions.

exceptional look at a life
Whatever you may think of the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs--and I personally never thought that much of it--this is still a fascinating look at the life of the man who created one of the most famous characters in all of literary history. We see not just the life that Burroughs led, and the way his interests led him to write what he did. We also get an excellent sense of the times in which he lived and wrote. When ERB is ready to break into the pulps, we get a history of the pulps and what sort of business he was enterring. When ERB works into his tales things like racial purity and eugenics, the biographer goes into detail about the world's views on such things. When Tarzan is created, there is a wonderful discussion of the ape man concept, the feral child being raised in the wild--in reality and in literature. And the care given in describing the various Tarzan films is terrific. Taliaferro's research is excellent. The fact that Burroughs himself cared more about the cents per word payment he was getting than the actual quality of his stories does make him something of a problem child, but as far as a business man, some of his approaches to his work are interesting to say the least. For people who want to learn about the man, the character of Tarzan, the other characters ERB created (since they are not slighted despite the the fact that Tarzan is in the forefront), or the early days of pulp fiction and moviemaking, this is a great book.

This is a great read
I really enjoyed Mr. Taliaferro's incisive treatment of the author's life and unusual ideas.

Great White Fathers: The Story of the Obsessive Quest to Create Mount Rushmore
Published in Hardcover by PublicAffairs (05 November, 2002)
Author: John Taliaferro
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