- Hardcover: 484 pages
- Publisher: IndyPublish (May 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 140430326X
- ISBN-13: 978-1404303263
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 101 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,466,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Following the Equator
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About the Author
When Mark Twain took off by ship for a round-the-world lecture tour, he took along a sharp eye, a notebook, and his renowned wit. Michael Kevin reads Twain's narrative of his experiences with a Southern-inflected drawl and an unhurried pace that sound just right. He also offers amusing individual character shadings for many of Twain's fellow passengers, whom the great writer often quotes as well as skewers. The book is full of everything from onboard whist games to tiger hunting. Twain's opinions are many, often mercilessly funny, and frequently ahead of their time--except when he is suddenly of his time. The result is a fully developed self-portrait, nineteenth-century mores and all. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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In 1895 Twain was on a 'round the world lecture tour to pay off debts. The result of that tour is this book. This is Twain's account of that circumnavigation of the globe and his experiences in Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa. As he arrives at each destination, he discusses the history, people, modes of travel, laws, and customs.
While steaming across the ocean, from country to country, Twain has opportunities to regale us with various anecdotes and stories. We really do get the feeling that we're sitting on deck with him as he launches into yet another interesting and humorous tale. These "intermissions on deck" from the actual trip are the high points of the book and the moments I most enjoyed.
Twain gives us some very detailed history of each destination. We also get an insight into the technology of the day. Remember, this is 1895, only five short years before the turn of the century. So, we learn that the telegraph is in wide use. Twain writes that connecting a telegraph wire from a remote area in Australia to one of it's major cities then connected that town with the entire world. In minutes, information could be sent from this remote Australian town to London and beyond. While steam ships and rail were the primary means of travel, we can't help but wonder that in ten short years, the automobile, flight, and wireless will forever change this world of 1895. So, in a way, it's one last look at an era about to pass away forever.
It's an enjoyable read. Remember, though, Mr. Twain is giving us an account of his year-long, around the world tour. This requires 69 chapters and just over 432 pages to recount the trip, and a commitment on the part of the reader to board ship with Twain for the entire voyage.
Following the equator provides a glimpse into the challenges of world travel, and the perceptions of most western travelers regarding the rest of the world, circa the 1890s. While most readers are probably familiar with Twain's travel books through Europe, this lesser known work finds him traipsing through the Pacific. A world that not many of his even well traveled readers were familiar with in the 1890s.
Twain's musings regarding the Maori and other Pacific peoples are enlightening as well as entertaining; as is his general condemnation of western "civilization" in their dealings with many of the Pacific islanders.
Don't expect the lightheartedness of Tom Sawyer, nor the dark damnation of The Mysterious Stranger. It is somewhere in the middle, and well worth the read.
ABOUT THIS KINDLE EDITION: This review is on the free Kindle Edition. While the navigation had a few quirks, there is nothing about it that prevents you from a pleasurable reading experience. This book does not suffer from the gross mis-spellings and grammatical errors that many free Kindle versions are prone to.
Some quotations: "December 17 Reached Sydney(Australia)December 19. In the train. Fellow of 30...with teeth which made his mouth look like a neglected churchyard....he smoked the most extraordinary cigarettes-made of some kind of manure, apparently....He wore a coat which had been gay when it was young; 5-o'clock-tea-trousers of a light tint, and marvelously soiled; yellow mustache with a dashing upward twirl at the ends; foxy shoes, imitation patent leather. He was a novelty-an imitation dude. He would have been a real one if he could have afforded it. But he was satisfied with himself. You could see it in his expression, and in all his attitudes and movements. He was living in a dude dreamland where all his squalid shams were genuine, and himself a sincerity. It disarmed criticism, it mollified spite, to see him so enjoy his imitation languors, and arts, and airs, and his studied daintinesses of gesture and misbegotten refinements."
(In India at the Taj Mahal)" These descriptions do really state the truth- as nearly as the limitations of language will allow. But language is a treacherous thing, a most unsure vehicle, and it can seldom arrange descriptive words in such a way that they will not inflate the facts-by help of the readers imagination, which is always ready to take a hand, and work for nothing, and do the bulk of it at that."