It seems to me that classics tend to become classics for one of two reasons. The first being that they are incredibly well written novels that become examples of their craft. The second being that they may contain ideas which are universally relevant. I'm not suggesting that a classic cannot be both, for instance [b:Pride and Prejudice|1885|Pride and Prejudice|Jane Austen|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320399351s/1885.jpg|3060926] is both a social commentary and beautifully written. Yet I believe that one of those two features dominates as to why it is remembered as a classic work of fiction.
In the case of King Kong
, the legend of the beastly Kong survives mainly due to the second reason, with the nature of its ideas being greater than the book itself. It reminds me of a similar book by Edgar Rice Burroughs in [b:Tarzan of the Apes|40425|Tarzan of the Apes (Tarzan, #1)|Edgar Rice Burroughs|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1349074111s/40425.jpg|1774048], as the idea behind King Kong
- that of a savage king of the wild encountering westernised civilisation - is similar. Yet, interestingly, in the case of this classic novel, like with another classic [b:2001: A Space Odyssey|70535|2001 A Space Odyssey (Space Odyssey, #1)|Arthur C. Clarke|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348775483s/70535.jpg|208362], the book is a novelisation of the film. However, this novelisation was written and released before the movie reached cinema screens.
By now almost everyone in western civilisation knows the basic premise of King Kong
. Most people know of how he came from a mysterious island to New York. There are fewer who do not know how he ultimately ends up atop the giant Empire State Building battling planes, the symbol of nature battling the enforcers of civilisation. The image of Kong atop the Empire State Building is one ground into the public consciousness and reinforced by advertisements, films, video games and slogans. This book, like most source material, contains this very legendary story and fleshes it out for the reader who has not yet discovered the entire story.
The writing in this novel is somewhat rough and at times poetic. It is hardly the most artistic writing and yet it has a historical charm about it that speaks of adventure and exotic action. It is a writing style that works in connection with the powerful ideas and the legend of King Kong to provide a fascinating storytelling experience.
As a final note it can be hard not to see the tale of King Kong
as a metaphor given the period of history in which it developed. The idea of a creature being taken from its homeland and chained for the amusement of (presumably) white American Broadway attendees and press hints at issues in the consciousness of the time. It hints at the cultural condition of the African-American people and slavery. And yet I would be wary to consider this book as one which endorses and upholds white supremacy as I would be wary to consider the legend of Tarzan in the same way. There can be such an issue as reading too deeply into any narrative. I would also be reluctant to see Kong as a symbol of masculine strength and domination over women (therefore creating a chauvinistic narrative from this text), though an argument could perhaps be made for this.
However, I would consider the tale of Kong as one which considers the idea of western civilisation versus the forces of nature. Kong, the mighty king, can be seen as a force of the wild. An untamed, spirit of nature which is ultimately destroyed by the power of progress and the machines of war. Yet at the same time it is a clearly a reworking of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast, a fairytale referenced often in this book.
Ultimately, the story of Kong is one which is a powerfully symbolic tale. Yet at its heart it is also classic adventure fiction of the best type, full of pulpy writing and characterisation. As such it is a fun read yet hardly the most compelling novel ever written. In this case I sense that the beast within this novel is perhaps greater than the novel itself. A primordial force which cannot be contained by the bounds of literature or film.