Nige on the man’s man with the girl’s name…
Talking of names (as we were last week), I was delighted to learn that Zane Grey, the tough-nut writer of pulp westerns – who died, very rich and famous, on this day in 1939 – was christened Pearl. He soon dropped this unmanly handlle in favour of his second name, a much better fit with his style and personality.
Grey seems to have devoted his boyhood to violent brawling, fishing and getting beaten by his father, who encouraged his literary efforts by tearing his first finished story into shreds and giving him a sound thrashing. No wonder young Zane grew up with a troubled, tempestuous nature, prone all his life to depression.
He was also – though this was perhaps unrelated to his early experiences – notably prone to sexual dalliance. As he frankly warned his future wife:
I love to be free. The ordinary man is satisfied with a moderate income, a home, wife, children and all that… But I am a million miles from being that kind of man and no amount of trying will ever do any good… I shall never lose the spirit of my interest in women.
She married him anyway, accepting his tomcat ways, raising his children, managing his career and editing his work to such good effect that this inept, much-rejected would-be writer (and failed dentist and minor-league baseball player) soon achieved worldwide fame and became one of the first millionaire authors.
So now, when your young son proudly hands you his first literary effort, you know what to do.