One of the century’s most enduring American writers, Zane Grey left a legacy to our national consciousness that far outstrips the literary contribution of his often predictable plots and recurring themes. How did Grey capture the attention of millions of readers and promote the Western fantasy that continues to occupy many of the world’s leisure hours? This study assesses the Zane Grey phenomenon by examining Grey’s romantic novels in the context of his life and era.
Grey, whose roots were in Zanesville, Ohio, was the son of a dentist and practiced dentistry himself in his early adulthood. He threw over that life for one of adventure, traveling throughout the world in search of excitement, a course that ultimately led him to become one of America's most popular authors. But he also was dogged by depression and inertia that affected his ability and will to work.
In Zane Grey: Romancing the West, author Stephen J. May traces the career of Grey by analyzing the development of his novels and popularity and the degree to which that shaped his world.
The book also investigates Grey’s personal life—from his fling with Hollywood to his passion for deep-sea fishing—illuminating the literature that shaped America's vision of itself through one of its most enduring and cherished myths.
Stephen J. May, who also wrote Pilgrimage and Footloose on the Santa Fe Trail, resides in Craig, Colorado. More info →
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With much recent scholarship polarizing frontier novels into “popular” and “literary” camps, The Word Rides Again challenges the critical orthodoxy that such works have little in common, arguing instead that formulaic Western fictions can subtly (and even subversively) share cultural concerns with more highbrow brethren.
The great American thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson and the influential German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, though writing in different eras and ultimately developing significantly different philosophies, both praised the individual's wish to be transformed, to be fully created for the first time. Emerson and Nietzsche challenge us to undertake the task of identity on our own, in order to see (in Nietzsche's phrase) “how one becomes what one is.”
In 1927, at the peak of his career, Zane Grey bought a three-masted schooner, which he sailed to the Galapagos Islands, later journeying to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji. As colorful as his characters were, so too was their creator. A consummate explorer, Zane Grey toured the world, was an acclaimed expert on salt- and freshwater fishing, and incorporated the sights and sounds he witnessed into his writings.