Pop Culture Homework Assignment #15: Around the World in 80 Days

I've been enjoying the Pop Culture Homework Project, but once in a while, it reveals to me that I've missed my window. Catching up on books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Wuthering Heights long after everyone else has read them was fine, because those books don't really have a narrow target audience, age-wise. But when it comes to books like A Wrinkle In Time, I just can't experience the way I'm supposed to, as an innocent child.

And now, I'm afraid, the same goes for Jules Verne's 1873 classic, Around the World in 80 Days. Even finding a complete and unabridged copy of this novel was a challenge. Every time I thought I had found it at the library, it turned out to be a picture book or an adaptation for kids, with dumbed-down vocab and words printed as big as bagels. Finally, I was hanging out with a friend one night, and noticed an unabridged copy sitting on his bookshelf. Fortuitous!

As you no doubt know, Around the World in 80 Days centers around one Mr. Phileas Fogg, a very wealthy man living in London, who bets the other members of his gentleman's club that he can circle the globe in the titular timeframe. This was nearly impossible in the late 1800s, and for him to make it, every single thing must go right for him; a single and minor delay will put him irrevocably out of the running. His entire fortune, not to mention his reputation, rests on this wager.

The laconic Fogg drags his new manservant Passepartout along on the journey, meeting a lovely and helpless woman (Aouda) during their travels. After saving her from being sacrificed in a ritual she also joins them. The group is being pursued by the detective Fix, who is convinced that Fogg is financing his trip with ill-gotten money he has stolen from a bank. He longs to arrest Fogg, and awaits the legal warrant to do so as he follows them from country to country.

Sounds like a thrilling adventure, doesn't it? Unfortunately, almost all the barriers to Fogg's success (and there are many) melt away for one single reason: Money. People not moving in enough of a hurry? Fogg throws money at them, and they speed right up. No means of conveyance available other than an elephant the owner doesn't want to part with? Fogg throws money at it, and the elephant is his. Captain of a ship not willing to deviate his route to help out? Fogg throws money at it, buys the ship and the crew's help, and gets back on track. Money, money, money. It's kind of boring.

Add to this some strange writing quirks (Aouda falling in love with Fogg for no real reason, an off-page rescue of Passepartout from Native American bandits), and it's clear that a book I would have found quite a thrill at age seven is slight and uninspiring at age thirty-seven. It's not a bad book, by any stretch of the imagination. But it's pretty clear that if I ever want to experience this story as it's meant to be enjoyed, I'm going to need a DeLorean, a flux capacitor, and some plutonium first.

Around the World in 80 Days: C+


Post a Comment

Copyright © Slice of Lime