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Monday, February 9, 2015

Happy Birthday Jules Verne

Eleven years ago, I watched the movie "Around the World in 80 Days" in the cinema. This comedic version featured Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan as Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout. In addition, it featured Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Broadbent, Owen and Luke Wilson, and former Python John Cleese in smaller roles. Although it performed poorly at the box office, I enjoyed it, and have watched it several times since on DVD. So when I found the novel included in this treasury of Jules Verne novels at Barnes and Noble, I wanted to see how the modern film deviated from the original story.

Surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly), the modern film bares little resemblance to the novel. As I enjoyed the movie, I welcomed a chance to experience a completely different story. Gone were all the steampunk elements, as well as the slapstick comedy. All new to me were Phileas Fogg as a man of the most exacting habits, who fired his last butler for delivering his shaving water two degrees too cool. As a rich gentleman, Fogg leads an insular, scholarly life. His only contact with the outside world is his daily walk between his house and his club in London. Yet he exhibits an extraordinary knowledge of all aspects of human existence. So strong is his faith in his own deductions that, when challenged, he bets his friends that he can circumnavigate the globe in a seemingly inadequate length of time. Oh, and the amount of his wager? Only the entirety of his earthly fortune.

This volume contains a plethora of black-and-white illustrations that evoke the imagery of the late Nineteenth century. In addition to Verne's exciting prose, the artwork keeps me turning the pages. Yet I can't read the novel fast enough. Weighing in at nearly three pounds, this hardback quickly grows too heavy to hold up while laying in bed at night. So reading it is reluctantly relegated to the daytime hours, when I can carve out a little time to sit down and read a chapter or two. Still, for the price, and with the sumptuous artwork, this collection from Barnes and Noble was a real bargain. 

Only one-third of my way into the novel, it's easy to see why readers flocked to Verne's stories. Around the World in Eighty Days is just one of fifty-four novels Verne wrote in his Voyages Extraordinaires series. I'd love to think that I might be able to read them all, but life is too short to allow me to read more than a fraction of all the books that catch my interest. So for now, I'll reluctantly content myself with finishing this novel during the daytime hours, and count the minutes between each reading session.

Really, Verne's adventure story is just too much fun!!!

Yesterday was Jules Verne's 187th birthday, so Happy Birthday Jules Verne! When I join you up above the clouds, I look forward to an eternity in which I can sing majestic operas, master the harp, and read all the great books ever written. Including yours.

Dragon Dave

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