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Zane Grey: A Study In Values - Above And Beyond The West

Zane Grey:  A Study In Values - Above And Beyond The West

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Date Added: Friday 15 February, 2013

by CHARLES WHEELER

Charles Pfeiffer is an excellent writer with some "weighty" ideas when it comes to Zane Grey and what the author believed and thought about on many subjects, but none more so than religion and philosophy. Dr. Pfeiffer uses Zane Grey's own words from his novels, his correspondence, and his personal journals to validate his theories concerning Zane Grey's ideology. But I believe he spends far too much time in the book on God and religion and not enough on ZG's philosophy on writing and the trouble he had with editors, nor enough explanation dealing with "the man"--that is his interaction and re-action with other people. What was Zane Grey like as a person?
High sounding, scholarly works are okay, and this book is one, and it will undoubtedly become the seminal, or birth child, work which others will use as reference; but for me personally, it missed the mark in what I wanted to find out. Don't get me wrong, it is a good book for what it is, and for a die-hard Zane Grey fan who wishes to read everything by or about Zane Grey they can, I say buy this book. Using Dr. Pfeiffer's own words, "To even the casual reader it will be obvious that this book is a biased treatment favorable to Zane Grey". Yet, at times, I feel there are passages which contradict that statement and portray ZG in quite unflattering ways by bringing into the subject matter things totally irrelevant, especially near the end of the book in a section called, "To Lift Their Breasts With Longing". This is a section dealing with love and sexuality, and the sexual descriptions Zane Grey was supposed to have inserted subliminally, or purposely, in his writings. Why even bring in the "smut" factor just because that happens to be kind of westerns being published today? Yes, Zane Grey wrote "romances", love stories; he admitted that; he reveled in that; and in letters to his wife and to others he pondered, "Where do I come up with these stories?" What Dr. Pfeiffer has written and theorized about sexual innuendo will not affect my love affair with Zane Grey and his majestic, sweeping, panoramic, thrilling, character driven, "just plain old entertaining" stories of the West. I'll continue to read them as I always have, enjoying them for what they are—great descriptive narrative—and I will learn about the author from what he is saying in them and not what someone else says he is saying. Since the publication of Frank Gruber’s excellent biography of Zane Grey in 1970 and Carlton Jackson’s treatise of Zane Grey in 1973, as Mr. Jackson says in the preface of the revised edition of his book in 1989, “Interest in Zane Grey –academic and otherwise—seems to be an undying phenomenon, and enough activity has taken place in the past decade and a half to warrant yet another look at the writer who at one time was the third best-seller in American literary history.” And in the extra chapter Professor Jackson added to update this renewed interest in Zane Grey, he writes, “Nevertheless, it is undeniable that “bad” Zane Grey is infinitely better than the so-called adult Westerns that are unmercifully thrust on the reading public.” Amen to that! And, “Interest in Zane Grey today goes beyond his literary productions. Scholars are showing an increased concern with his personal life as they try to figure out Grey’s psychology and theology, and the inconsistencies between what he wrote about and his own private activities.” I believe even Mr. Jackson sensed what was about to unfold from the pens of these “scholars” and so he concluded his book with this: “Most important though, he (Zane Grey) can give us pleasure, and make us feel good about things. Those characteristics of nostalgic pleasures and a profound sense of déjà vu are not to be taken lightly in the contemporary world.”
But who reads Zane Grey today? I’ve heard it asked by skeptics. Or, Is Zane Grey relevant today? And I think he is. His novels and stories hold up just as well today as they did when he wrote them, touching on subjects still in the news and on people’s minds such as the treatment of returning veterans, or the dismal life the American Indian still faces on the reservation. Moreover, most all of us I believe wish we could live in simpler, less complicated times where right and wrong do not seem to overlap and blend together; where the enemy is easily recognizable, and that enemy will fight face to face once he is exposed; and where hero and heroine can live “happily ever after” by riding off into the sunset together. Who wouldn’t want those things?
To conclude: I do congratulate Doctor Pfeiffer, and commend him for his hard work, and the many years he dedicated himself to this awesome task of compilation which was necessary for this work to come to fruition. And, I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Zane Grey.

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]

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