Because of movies, mostly, there are a few books that should now come with warnings, prominently displayed: Not Like the Movie. The back covers should feature specific “anti-spoilers.” Frankenstein is the most obvious example, I think. The perplexed reader waits, in a fidget, for the appearance of hunchbacked Igor and “Fire bad!” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz” but instead reads about the monster reading The Sorrows of Young Werther. That’s my favorite part of the book, at least. Regardless, the innovations and improvements of James Whale are nowhere to be found.
Anyone read Carlos Collodi’s 1883 The Adventures of Pinocchio? It’s a fascinating book, not merely frightening like parts of the Walt Disney version but quite grim. The big shocker, though, is the – no, I don’t want to say. Leave it at this: the use of the cricket is very different. Very, very different.
Reading Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) recently, I came across another one. Phileas Fogg, a wealthy sufferer from autism, “that dummy in a top hat,” (Nabokov, The Defense, p. 34), is tangled up in an expensive bet: can he travel around the world, point to point, in eighty days? A number of forms of transportation will be required – certainly, different boats and steamships, and trains, and because there will inevitably be complications along the way, other more clever and surprising vehicles. I have never seen a film version of the novel, but I had somehow picked up the idea that there would be a balloon. Where did I get that idea? (Poster from Wikipedia).
Here’s the balloon:
Still, some means must be found to cross the Atlantic on a boat, unless by balloon, - which would have been venturesome, besides not being capable of being put in practice. (Ch. 32)
I’m reading the 1873 George Towle translation; perhaps the infelicities of that sentence are his fault. Separate issue. It was amusing to carry along, while reading, a niggling feeling that a balloon was supposed to appear. It could have, at any moment, even at the very end. The train to London breaks down, but, look, there’s a balloonist! But no.
I know that Verne had written an earlier novel about ballooning (Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1863), so perhaps he was sick of the subject. The variety would have been nice, though. I was startled by how dull most of the obstacles and solutions were in Around the World, which is nominally an adventure novel. Fogg mostly solves his problems by spending money. The ship he needed already sailed? Hire another! The novel is not much of a demonstration of the ingenuity of Jules Verne. He is generally more interested in steamship schedules than in exciting incidents. Even the ending is stolen directly from Edgar Allan Poe.
As if I cared whether or not there was a balloon, or a rocket ship, or a tricycle! Just get me around the world, Jules – and that, he did. Still, a warning to adventure seekers: Around the World in Eighty Days is more a classic of trainspotting than of adventure, and there ain’t no balloon.