Dear Associates,

I am the literary critical detective.

In my work I examine the mise en scene of classic detective stories carefully, paying attention to the smallest metaphorical detail, sifting through the facts and then distorting them according to my whim.
My friends have been kind enough to express some interest in my observations and so to this end I am making this journal available. I hope that you might also find it of some interest.

The Literary Critical Detective.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Around The World in Eighty Days: A review that is somewhat late.

Whilst it is only a coincidence that I read Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) whilst myself travelling, it is a useful one and has shed some light on the text for me. Allow me to share my thoughts.

I read the first one hundred pages of the novel here, amongst the supposed peace of my study; I read the rest in the real peace of the countryside, the River Wharfe rushing nearby.

I would not have had to pack this book if I had got down to the text quicker. I left on my real-world travels at the appointed hour but had for several days previously been putting off going on Verne’s literary journey.

If it’s true that I read the opening of the novel relatively slowly then it’s also true that I picked up the pace towards the end. This is not insignificant. My own reading speed – created in part, I think, by the pacing and structure of the text itself – mimicked that of its central protagonist, Mr Phileas Fogg. The second half of our hero’s voyage is a lot quicker than the first. For me, then, form and the reading experience mirrored content.

In actual fact I often found myself doing precisely what Fogg himself never does – lifting my eyes from the page and staring out of the window at the world around me. The characters are placed in jeopardy on nearly every page and episode flashes by after episode with the merest turn of the page. Eventually you run out of reading energy.

I would like to argue that what this text requires of you as a reader is a kind of sustained inattention.

The politics of representation in this book are complex. The episodes set in India, China, Japan and America are all problematic in their own ways.

In the end, this is an exciting, funny, absurd and troubling book. I found myself laughing out loud at that moment when the narrator compares Hong Kong to a Kentish town. It is also a little frustrating when Verne chooses to info dump – we are often told how heavy a ship is, for instance.

There is, though, fun to be had here.

1 comment:

  1. Whilst it is perhaps a coincidence that you posted this review of ATW, read in part in the Yorkshire countryside, as I began reading "The Other Log of Phileas Fogg," based on an alternative history of the character as a member of the Wold Newton family, whose heritage also began in Yorkshire.

    I perceive that both your review and Philip José Farmer's novel show the Verne story has enough content to be interpreted in many ways. That aspect of the work, I believe, is what has made it interesting to the many generations between 1873 and now.