Wednesday, March 31, 2010
As a child, Zane Grey wasn’t much of a dentist, but then he’d grow up to be not much of a writer. Somehow he realized financial success at both.
Little Zane made money offering door-to-door dentistry. “Hey ma’am, you have something that needs pulling, I’m your boy.” Astonishingly, this pitch, or something similar, worked like a charm. And to think I couldn’t even sell a Thin Mint.
His books? I suppose you’d say someone who has sold as few words as I would have a lot of nerve to criticize someone who sold millions of them. I believe you don’t have to lay the eggs to spot a bad one. Or bad ‘un, as Zane would say. So I see your nerve and raise you an excerpt:
“Nell, I’m growing powerful fond of you.”
“So you must be Master Joe, if often telling makes it true.”
The girl spoke simply and with an absence of that roguishness that was characteristic of her. Playful words, arch smiles, and a touch of coquetry had seemed natural to Nell; but now her grave tone and almost wistful glance disconcerted Joe.
I’d let old Zane go his way and I go mine, so long as he took his disconcerted yet roguishly arch coquettes with him, but for one grave and wistful problem: He is one of Altadena’s favorite sons. Zane lived here, wrote, fished, hiked, and kept at least one of his many, many (Many!) mistresses here. His estate, lovingly restored by a really nice couple who throw open their doors for all sorts of local events and fundraisers, is less than a mile from my house. I literally meet him coming and going all day.
Zane was the most popular writer of the 1920’s. That means he wiped the floor with Faulkner and Hemingway. While FSF could barely make a living from Great Gatsby:
I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others - poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner - young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.
Zane gave us:
A tide of emotion swept over Gale. How good it was to meet a friend—someone to whom he could talk! He had never appreciated his loneliness until that moment.
This is from a book of bad called Shower of Gold. Pity Zane chose that moment to get all pretentious on us; we could have had a really memorable title.