Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here's a sign that nobody reads anymore

I've never seen both movies for Around the world in 80 days, which is a shame, but looking around the Net, I figured that the movies are popular enough they don't need my patronage. Here's what Jackie Chan had to say in an interview for IGN:

"I'd never seen the book. I'd only seen the movie. Years ago. At that time, just wow... It's a great movie. And after that, [I] just forgot it. But in my mind, Around the World in 80 Days, no matter when you see the balloon, you just think about Around the World in 80 Days."

The first movie must've been great--it did win an Oscar--but I kept wondering, what balloon? Did I miss something in the book? The last time I read it was October of last year, so it's either the balloon configured so little in the book or it was not there at all.

If you think about it, there are so many things more interesting in the book than the idea of a balloon. It was perfect timing also for me to read the book back then: I was on a trip across the US, which I haven't done since the 90s. I can't help marvel at how fast we travel nowadays: planes cut travel time significantly short. In the book, Phileas Fogg and Passepartout travel in trains, ships, pulled sleds, fishing boats...even on elephants! It's an adventure story specially suited for the period it was written for. If you're sensitive enough, you'll notice the author's (for lack of better word) biases--or as academics would call it, "Orientalism"--by the time they get to India, Hong Kong, Japan...and even the US had a certain face.

The bet and the coincidence of Fogg's hasty "escape" with a big robbery in a bank added a challenge to the already difficult 80-day trip around the world. The detective Fix is such a seriously determined character, it makes him amusing--especially since we're all aware that Fogg is innocent. This can say something about the human nature as well--people stop at nothing more often when they know they're going to get something in return.

It's not only nonfiction books that teach; fiction can tell you a lot about a period in time--if it's fantasy fiction, you can read between the lines and discover a way of thought. (Wasn't Lord of the Rings written during WWII?) Though fiction gives imaginary happenings, places, and people, the themes, ideas, and lessons it imparts are as true as history itself--inevitably subjective, but true nonetheless.

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