Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
When I read a book, I read front and back covers, all the blurbs on the first few pages, and then from page one to page… end. If there is an introduction, it is read. If there is a foreword, it is read. Prologue, Meet the Author, “This book is to.” Everything is read. No word is left in its lonesome.
The copy of Around the World in Eighty Days that I received from my brother-in-law happens to be an Oxford World’s Classics edition, which means someone added lots of extracurricular data at some point. Along with these data comes an introduction. To make a long story short, just don’t read the introduction in ANY Oxford World’s Classics edition of ANY book.
The author of said introduction, William Butcher, is not my friend. I don’t know who he is, and I don’t care. Because I read his introduction, I discovered how the story ended before I read the book. Can anyone explain why arguably one of the most prestigious universities in the world would enjoy the decimation of discovery?
This is the opposite of everything I hold dear. To spoil an ending is to disrespect authorship. Shame on you, Oxford World’s Classics, for “including expert introductions by leading authorities,” and shame on you, William Butcher, for complying with such villainy.
Valuable lesson learned. I pass it on to you, free of charge. Let’s move on.
This won’t be the last time I write about the topic of adventure. What today’s readers crave is a very particular style of writing, a style that fulfills our stifled literacy, a style that applauds the direct and vital. Seldom do readers demand pieces or anecdotes that stand isolated.
Random characters and sidetrack expeditions, take a seat! “You don’t belong here!” we cry. “Conform to our demands!”
Where is our desire for adventure? Since when do our own lives stay the straight and narrow course from conception to demise? Do we expect arrangements to never falter? Never sway? Never break?
And if we do foolishly believe so, are we so ingrained in our misconceptions that we must project them into the stories we read? I say to all readers, young and old, Let there be mishaps and redirection! Let there be unknowns and surprise! Let there be stories of irrelevance and adventure!
Let us discontinue the plunder of molding literature into a replica of our perceived perfect world.
Poor Bombadil. What have we come to?
The good news: Verne satisfies the longing for adventure.
The bad news: Verne has been dead for over a hundred years, and his modern day successor is arguably yet to be named.
But enough with negativity. This book is really good and short enough for any light reader to take the plunge. Without being a William Butcher, let me give you some insider information.
Phileas Fogg. He’s a freakin’ boss, a Bill Belichick, a stone-cold winner, rarely phased, hardly shaken. His stoicism is to be admired, and his heroics are next to none.
Before we know just how bad-to-the-bone he is, though, all we know is that he is a wealthy man of an unknown age, and his whist buddies challenge him to attempt an 80 day trek around the world, all the while wagering every penny of his banked up 20,000 pounds.
A few things to note:
- I don’t know what whist is.
- The book takes place in 1872. Therefore,
- Airplanes did not exist, so 80 days would have been a stretch.
- Today, 20,000 pounds would be about $2.9 million in standard US currency.
I had a great time researching the path taken by Fogg and his crew. Since I am not geographically inclined, I used the world map that hangs above my desk along with a nice dose of the Maps of Google. Adventure is an understatement!
- London (England) to Suez (Egypt)
- Suez to Bombay (Modern day Mombai, India)
- Bombay to Calcutta (Modern day Kolkata, India)
- Calcutta to Hong Kong (China, a long journey around Singapore)
- Hong Kong to Yokohama (Japan)
- Yokohama to San Francisco
- San Francisco to New York
- New York to London
All of this while being pursued by Detective Fix, who is adamant that Phileas is guilty of a bank robbery.
Is he? Read.
Phileas does not journey alone. As a matter of fact, the story opens with a change in personal assistant. Out goes James Forster, in comes Jean Passepartout (supposedly pronounced PASS-PAH-TOO; check me, you who are fluent in French), who is immediately swept into a worldwide gamble of which he has no interest.
Several men and women make appearances, but it is Passepartout who I love the most, even more than Fogg, who I love very much.
Passepartout is, get this, “A man of about 30.” If you read my previous post on Michael Jordan, you will have seen this subject of 30 come up already. Goodness, I assure you that it will come up again. Thirty pops up everywhere.
Every ounce of stoicism is absorbed by Fogg; none is left for Passepartout. If you’ve seen Shrek, you could say that Fogg is like an Ogre (onions, layers, you get it), and Passepartout is like Donkey (wears emotions on his sleeves). There is no hidden element on his face, no secret in his eyes, no mystery in his speech, and at first glance we see no courage in him at all. We see only complacency in the mundane.
Passepartout’s personal journey is comparable even to the duo’s physical journey around the world. Love for his master is cultivated. Courage is made manifest in the midst of tribulation. Diligence matures aggressively amid their plight.
Of course, the greatest trial Passepartout faces is that of taming his tongue, or rather repressing the overflow of his heart. Be that as it may, I can tell you this: I want Passepartout on my team.
Fogg and Passepartout alone are reason enough to recommend the book, but there is enough ship hopping, elephant purchasing, and life saving in this story to truly entertain our quests for adventure, that is, if adventure is what you seek.
If at least adventure does you no harm, which I pray is the case, you will be rejuvenated in reading Around the World in Eighty Days.