Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Zane Grey: my love/hate relationship with his writing

I love Zane Grey's writing; I hate Zane Grey's writing.

His description of the West--the canyons and rivers, the sage and sky--just beautiful. His action . . . I should smile it's good! And the Romance demands the capital letter--love greater than the small self, transforming the characters.

And then Grey will throw in some slur to Hispanics or Native Americans or African Americans, some derogatory stereotyping of a racial or ethnic or religious minority--not to mention those plucky but delicate heroines--and then I want to use the book to start my campfire.

But I have a cold today, and Zane Grey is the perfect medicine--sweet with an after-taste of bitter medicine. My pharmacy was a free ebook from Project Gutenberg for my nook.

It takes a very special human to totally transcend the limitations and prejudices of an particular time. We know and revere those few, special individuals. And we regret the lack of greatness in others and ourselves when we perceive it.

I like to think that Zane Grey, if he had lived in our times, would have written books that were even better, were even more universal in their appeal.

I read and accept and forgive . . . and hope that others forgive me for my errors, writing or otherwise.

Copyright 2010 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


  1. Dear Mr. Kepler,
    "The Call of the Canyon" was on the shelf, and I checked it out. It starts off ok talking about beautiful AZ, where I lived for 3 years, but now it is making me so mad. I keep listening hoping it will change.
    Your post came up while searching his name with keywords racist and sexist. It is amazing how little comes up. Grey isn't just a racist and sexist but a hypocrite. I wrote a comment going on and on about this, then hit the wrong button. I'm trying to get through without having a fit and this comment is helping. I don't believe in burning old books. Record should be kept of former ignorance, but the publishers should stop publishing this, and I'm going to tell the library (for what it is worth), not to purchase any more of his books.
    You say that we should forgive him not being able to rise above the times, but he was full of s#@t, cheating on his wife, getting arrested in a brothel at 15, having multiple young mistresses, etc.
    OK well that is off my chest, I'm going to try to post, and try to finish reading!

    1. I especially hate Grey's comments like, "He's killed ten men, not counting greasers and injuns." The bigotry in that is unbelievable, although readers should never assume the beliefs of authors' characters are the author's beliefs.

      The consciousness of the times lays a heavy stamp on us--more so on some than others. I also like Tolkien's Lord of the Ring trilogy, yet women in the trilogy have very little presence. Why is that? I assume they were still about half the population back then. Perhaps I should have used the word a different word than "forgive." Please forgive me, Jenn.