Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's in Zane


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.

50 comments:

  1. Thank heaven now Altadena has you to make literature fine again. I say that with deep admiration for how you put words together.

    Mind if I also mention Ms. Huneven, who's wonderful "Blame" I'm reading now? The woman can write. Do you know her? Does she have a house as nice as Zane Grey's? Or are good writers not allowed mansions?

    I'd better get my novel sold. There are some lovely spots available on the Arroyo.

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  2. Oh, who cares about how the man wrote, give us the really juicy stuff -- what of his dentistry career??

    I'm tucking the name Zane away for my first born. That's priceless.

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  3. But his first 17 years were spent in the splendid southeastern part of Ohio, in Zanesville, named after his ancestor.

    The Wikipedia info on him is fascinating, which I mention in case anyone has time to kill. He lived enough like Hemingway to have written better than he apparently did.

    Is it ZG's being your neighbor that brought on this post? Interesting stuff. I won't defend his work (esp. since I've never read it), but how many can stand up to Gatsby, and in particular the passage you quote?

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  4. About Huneven: I saved a piece she wrote years ago about a duck she rescued. I, who lose everything, still have it. Yes, I'll read her book.

    Quid, your kid will never forgive you. A dog, on the other hand...

    Yeah, Banjo, I was curious about him because the estate is so beautiful. So I checked out a book. Isn't it odd that some of the best films are westerns, but I can't think of even one passable novel. You'll correct me, I'm sure.

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  5. I tend to jump on your bandwagons because they're so well-constructed.

    I want to add, however, that I admire artists who ship product, even if it's bad product. There's a talent there. Even if it's not an art it's a craft, and I admit I want to emulate it.

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  6. A wave of emotion swept through me as I read this. With moist eyes, and a shrouded heart, I now realize I must bid my dreams of popular writerhood adieu.

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  7. See, your mom was right. A career in orthodontia can take you anywhere.

    GG

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  8. Oh, I'm so glad you brought this up, KB. I'll never forget the disappointment of reading "Riders of the Purple Sage" and wondering WTF is everyone yodeling about all up in here.

    As for Ms. Huneven, he deer peeing scene in Jamesland is indelibly etched in my mind. Zane Grey? Only the bad aftertaste remains. And the name of a really cool band.
    Here they are in Altadena:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccKHEc4u3E0

    wv weeace
    Wee aced it.

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  9. There's no accounting for taste or sales. I took up Banjo's suggestion and googled Mr. Grey. Seems Harper’s editor Ripley Hitchcock rejected one of his works, the fourth work in a row he rejected. He told Grey, “I do not see anything in this to convince me you can write either narrative or fiction.”

    But apparently, he was a pretty good baseball player, and his brother spent one day in the major leagues.

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  10. I feel doubly connected to Zane. We grew up in the same neck of the woods (Zanesville is about an hour from my home town), and we both ended up in Altadena. He wasn't so good at stringing the words together, but he knew a good community when he found one.

    Michele Huneven is a great talent. I heard her read from her unfinished novel last week at the Museum of California Art last week.

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  11. I've seen MH in a couple of my fav Pasadena eateries. Her writing is still at its best when it's food topical.

    Which gives me this related idea: I kinda pray KB starts regular food writing.

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  12. Ah, and I fondly remember "Zane Grey Theater" on TV when I was a kid in the '50s.

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  13. If a writer does a reading from an unfinished novel, does that mean they're still reading?

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  14. Michelle H. and Michele Zack are best friends and live - I believe - back-to-back in houses with an adjoining gate.

    At least, they used to a few years ago.

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  15. There you go, mentioning another wonderful Altadena writer. The place is bursting with 'em.

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  16. There's nothing like a good game of coquet.

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  17. Shower of Gold?

    You'd have to have to some charm to sell that one to your agent.

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  18. Jon is named after a Zane Grey character. Jonathan Zane. Those novels were his dad's favorites as a boy. True story.

    Just think, if his dad had loved Fitzgerald as much, I might be married to Jay.

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  19. BTW, I think you and I might be competing to see how many times we can quote F. Scott in our blogs!

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  20. Gosh darn it all if you gone pulled a tooth on this 'un. Zane was famous because he was the first to write short and easy to read novels about the west. Dolly, his wife, was his editor. She actually fixed things up. So, you can imagine the sh- sheets he was coming up with. But there wouldn't be a Paramount Studios without him.

    As Steve Jobs once said to his newly formed Apple, Don't worry, be crappy.

    Thanks, Karin.

    PS. many many mistresses... Dolly fine with it. (shrug!)

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  21. Oh, and well-heeled Zane admired, even courted Hemmingway but Papa felt differently about the fisherman. Snubsville.

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  22. Maybe he was compensating because his given name was Pearl.

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  23. My dad liked his books. He didn't get past grade 8 and, although he drove truck for a living, he was a true cowboy at heart. I've never read a Zane Grey book although I bought my Dad many as gifts. I suppose he must have liked the simple prose.

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  24. I remember this FSF quote:
    "Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind".

    AH, you are very effective, FSF-like!

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  25. So what did you think of Charles F Lummis' ode to a Cigerette?

    In the visual arts we have another son (this one is a native) who as it turns out is Art Center's most successful graduate, Thomas Kinkade "Painter of Light" he has a trademark on the phrase.

    in his own words.....

    "There's been million-seller books and million-seller CDs. But there hasn't been, until now, million-seller art. We have found a way to bring to millions of people, an art that they can understand."

    I've been told he got a start selling those little plaster houses on The Home Shopping Network

    meaning his retirement fund is in much better shape then all the talents who died broke in flea bag hotels. He'll die in a Neutra

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  26. Your dad wasn't alone, Carolynn.

    Why Cosen-wommyn, thank you.

    PA, now I have visions of a room decorated in Kinkaid paintings, with Zane on the bookshelves and Sarah Brightman on the stereo. Let's see, what else does it need...

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  27. "In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day."

    I also realize this has nothing to do with the subject at hand, but as long as we're volleying FSF quotes...

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  28. Hiker, that room needs you holding a glass of white zinfandel and perusing a bookshelf containing sll works gy Nicholas Sparks. Hardback, of course.

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  29. Curses, Laurie, this is war.

    But as to our charming scene, let's add a cheeseboard of Kraft American Slices and Trader Joe's Fontina.

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  30. I deny your reality and impose my own. I've never read Zane, but I am determined to think well of him, if only because he had such a cool name.

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  32. I think the room also needs some Rod McKuen poetry books on the shelves.

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  33. Did someone say Rod McKuen ?

    My laugh just called, it wants to know if my sides hurt yet.

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  34. And as we eat our Kraft slices and sip the white zinfandel, we can read Rod McKuen as we recline on my Ikea Hagalund. (Actually, in my livingroom, that Hagalund might add a little class.)

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  35. Scoot over on the hagalund, I brought a Hillshire Farms nut log and a Yanni concert on Blu Ray, unless you'd rather watch The Notebook.

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  36. Havi arose from the Hagalund, slipped on a Velveeta and landed face down in a pool of white zin Chuck. That's when she noticed the old book under the bjogen had fallen open to page 92, it read:

    You know, in every Mormon village there are women who seem mysterious to us, but about Milly there was more than the ordinary mystery. When she came to Cottonwoods she had a beautiful little girl whom she loved passionately. Milly was not known openly in Cottonwoods as a Mormon wife. That she really was a Mormon wife I have no doubt. Perhaps the Mormon's other wife or wives would not acknowledge Milly. Such things happen in these villages. Mormon wives wear yokes, but they get jealous.

    Havi thought Zane seemed a bit obsessed with Mormons.

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  37. Can someone turn down the Yanni, I can't hear Miss Havisham. The remote is on the Arholma next to the Arstid.

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  38. I mean they hurt. My sides hurt.

    WV: sumbeme. Jesus wants me for a sumbeme, remember that one?

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  39. Looks like we polished off the white zin. And I think Havi's Virginia Slim burned a hole in the Arstid. Maybe it's time for a nice cup of General Foods International coffee?

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  40. Nothing odd about being obsessed with Mormons.

    Good Morning
    I'm sipping on Jose's "Institutional Blend" via Cost-Co. Comes in a big silver bag

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  41. This canine doesn't mind be associated with women. As long as they are sober, safe & zane girls.

    Now, this dog is wundering what inzanity I got baited into just for a few pettings. At least it's Fryday, so I have a chance to recover.

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  42. If he were around today, he could make a fortune writing scripts for TV. He may have to 'dummy down' his language and style, however.

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  43. Either is fine. Did you defrost the Sarah Lee?

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  44. Okay, my fellow Chandler-loving friends. This BBC interview with him is pretty cool -- here's part one of four on YouTube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zj6cc0T1z7I

    I love those bungalow apartments, too. I lived in HOllywood for 2 1/2 years when I first moved here and I have fond memories of all the people I knew who lived in them. I forget which one was Chandler's -- it was called El Pueblo, I think.

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  45. Hi there, I spotted your link at "Brenda's Arizona" and took a chance. I like what I see. I'm going to tag along if you don't mind.
    thanks!
    patricktillett.blogspot.com

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