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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.
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