I love certain travel books, ones that give you an inspiring window on places you ve never been or want to revisit while holding a humbling mirror up to the perspective and culture of the traveler Innocents Abroad is a classic that fulfills this goal nicely and a fun read to boot In 1867, the nearly unknown journalist Mark Twain set out at age 32 on a chartered ship from New York with a group of Americans for a three month tour around the Mediterranean with major overland side trips His itinerary overlapped some of my own school trip many years ago to educational sites Italy, Greece, and Turkey But it also included forays into France, Russia, North Africa, and the Middle East, capped by a facinating inland trip by horse and camel from Damascus to Jerusalem Here is a map of his journey I appreciate the combination of self deprecation, wonder, slapstick humor and cynicism represented in Twain s writing The following quotes capture his nobler sentiments The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become, until he goes abroad I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one s lifetime Human nature appears to be just the same, all over the world.For his sense of wonder, here are a few examples of his eloquence from experience of people in the streets of Constantinople, of the ruins of the Appian way, and of the ancient Sphinx in Egypt People were thicker than bees, in those narrow streets, and the men were dressed in all the outrageous, outlandish, idolatrous, extravagant, thunder and lightning costumes that ever a tailor with the delirium tremens and seven devils could conceive of Gray lizards, those heirs of ruin, of sepulchres and desolation, glided in and out among the rocks or lay still and sunned themselves Where prosperity has reigned, and fallen where glory has flamed, and gone out where beauty has dwelt, and passed away where gladness was, and sorrow is where the pomp of life has been, and silence and death brood in its high places, there this reptile makes his home, and mocks at human vanity His coat is the color of ashes and ashes are the symbol of hopes that have perished, of aspirations that came to nought, of loves that are buried If he could speak, he would say, Build temples I will lord it in their ruins build palaces I will inhabit them erect empires I will inherit them bury your beautiful I will watch the worms at their work and you, who stand here and moralize over me I will crawl over your corpse at the last I gave it up and walked down to the Sphynx After years of waiting, it was before me at last The great face was so sad, so earnest, so longing, so patient There was a dignity not of earth in its mien, and in its countenance a benignity such as never any thing human wore It was stone, but it seemed sentient If ever image of stone thought, it was thinking It was looking toward the verge of the landscape, yet looking at nothing nothing but distance and vacancy It was looking over and beyond every thing of the present, and far into the past It was gazing out over the ocean of Time over lines of century waves which, further and further receding, closed nearer and nearer together, and blended at last into one unbroken tide, away toward the horizon of remote antiquity.Humor is tucked into every page, providing comic relief without dominating the story Galloping pell mell on donkeys through the streets of a town in the Azores is one example that stands out for me The humor often barbs both ways, as in this exampleIn Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.Another vein of humor comes from playing practical jokes on the tourist guides, which in every country they call Ferguson to save on mastering a foreign name In one case, after getting tired of too much hype over Michelangelo s creations, the travelers keep pestering their guide with questions about his responsibility of ancient structures like the Roman Forum For a similar deflation of their guide s pressures to revere Columbus, here is a joke they played on him He took us to the municipal palace After much impressive fumbling of keys and opening of locks, the stained and aged document was spread before us The guide s eyes sparkled He danced about us and tapped the parchment with his finger What I tell you, genteelmen Is it not so See handwriting Christopher Colombo write it himself We looked indifferent unconcerned The doctor examined the document very deliberately, during a painful pause Then he said, without any show of interest Ah Ferguson what what did you say was the name of the party who wrote this Christopher Colombo ze great Christopher Colombo Another deliberate examination Ah did he write it himself or or how He write it himself Christopher Colombo He s own hand writing, write by himself Then the doctor laid the document down and said Why, I have seen boys in America only fourteen years old that could write better than that On the negative side, personal cultural bias comes out in many places References abound to the dirtiness of the people in many countries, hygiene issues such as mustache hair on the women, and the rapaciousness of the beggars The great efforts to find soap at hotels throughout the journey is funny at times, but overdone I sympathize with Twain over his cynicism over the obsessive collection and promotion of holy relics by Catholic churches There are just too many nails he was crucified with on display and too many bones of saints honored in shrines to foster meaningful spirituality Aristocratic excess is a perennial target for American sensibility, and so is the contrast between religious pomp of prelates and the poverty of the people While his meeting with the Russian Czar in Yalta made Twain recognize his ordinary humanity, just thinking about the Muslim Caliph in Constantinople with hundreds of wives makes him see hypocrisy in the whole religious enterprise Here is his anti Catholic rant on Italy As far as I can see, Italy, for fifteen hundred years, has turned all her energies, all her finances, and all her industry to the building up of a vast array of wonderful church edifices, and starving half her citizens to accomplish it She is today one vast museum of magnificence and misery All the churches in an ordinary American city put together could hardly buy the jeweled frippery in one of her hundred cathedrals And for every beggar in America, Italy can show a hundred and rags and vermin to match It is the wretchedest, princeliest land on earth O, sons of classic Italy, is the spirit of enterprise, of self reliance, of noble endeavor, utterly dead within ye Curse your indolent worthlessness, why don t you rob your church Despite this apparent cynicism, it was fascinating to experience Twain s underlying reverence with respect to the sites of the Holy Land In Jerusalem, you can feel his underlying judgment of commercial hype over supposed sites where Mary supposedly stood or stayed, where Christ rested a moment as he bore his cross toward Calvary, etc But at many other points his awe comes through over sites that remind him how an ordinary fisherman from Nazareth who sailed the Galilee with his brothers came to change the world through his spiritual vision In process of this read, I came to appreciate the evolution of Twain s own sensibilities and the story telling skills that would shape the landscape of American literature. God you ve got to love Twain A funny sacred cow roasting romp through Europe and The Middle East, taking on stereotypes, high society, and decorum with a shotgun blast to the face However, this is young amused by humanities flaws Mark Twain, not embittered Fuck the World Mark Twain So there s still plenty of room for real wonder and occasional awe Plus it has the best reaction to a Mummy you will ever see. This novel is part stand up comedy and part history lesson Throughout the novel Twain is hysterically funny, irreverent, lampooning, and blatantly racist a classic American traveling abroad This travel log touches upon almost every tourist spot in Europe, North Africa, and the Holy Land Twain covers many of the most important sites in Europe in a thorough manner The text would become tedious if not for the wit and clever turning of phrases throughout the work The humor does have quite an edge The racism and bigotry showed by the author in this piece does not kill the story, in my estimation, it only makes Twain a man of his time.Mark Twain walks up to the top inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa, visits Florence and the Vatican, sees holy sites throughout current day Israel and Jordan, and even visits the Sphinx and the pyramids In many ways, Twain remains unchanged by his journey He feels that the clergy at every church are trying to rip him off with fake relics of course, often he is right The prejudices that he carried with him do not change He refers to Muslims as pagans and savages, equating them with his low view of the Native Americans p.406 He and his companions refused to use the names of their guides, instead refer to one and all as Ferguson Of course the real name of the place is El something of other, but the boys still refuse to recognize the Arab names or try to pronounce them p.299.There are some great scenes in this novel Twain at the grave of Adam in the Holy Land, from Adam and Eve fame, is fantastic Twain breaks down sobbing over visiting the grave of a long lost relative this far from home Adam is a relation six thousand years down the family tree, in the author s estimation, but still a kinsman Another wonderful image is of Twain and his companions riding through the desert on battered, broken horses with purple parasols to keep the sun off of them Good quotes p.311 I could not conceive of a small country having so large a history p.424 Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people needed it sorely on these accounts. This armchair travel guide is based on an actual journey made by Twain in 1867 He was only thirty two It first came out in the New York Herald, peu peu as he sent in his journal entries Only later in 1869 was it published as a book The excursion route can be seen here clicking on the map you are linked to the text in the book referring to the particular location In this way you can check out Twain s writing.So what makes this a classic, and why is it so highly praised For its humor and Twain s delightful knack at expressing himself He has a way with words He is opinionated, which is quite fun he dares to say what he thinks Some of his views are dated and quite simply not politically correct One does have to keep in mind that the book was published a century and a half ago On the other hand, many cultural tendencies do not change You recognize these and smile at the kernels of truth that lie in Twain s observations, observations made long, long ago and yet still valid Not all, but some The book has historical content There are tons of little tidbits that are interesting According to him, Damascus is said to be the oldest city in the world, and some think even the Garden of Eden Twain was at the second world s fair, The International Exposition of 1867 held in Paris He tells of us his experiences first hand He and some others took another side tour to Odessa on the Black Sea and there met with the Russian Czar and Czarina, Nicholas and Alexandra, in their summer palace in the Crimea He visited the Leaning Tour of Pisa He tells us that it feels as though, if you go to the edge, you weight will topple it over He and three friends sneak out of the ship moored outside the port Piraeus against imposed quarantine regulations they go into Athens, see the Acropolis by moonlight, steal grapes, are chased and finally return to the ship by dawn Such escapades transform interesting factual details into personal tales Twain is perceived as a friend telling you of what he saw and experienced He is relaxed he speaks from the heart Twain wonderfully captures the essence of many, many places What makes Paris Paris and Constantinople Constantinople Versailles, Milan, Venice, Rome, Pompeii Don t forget to look at the map above The humor is intellectual It is for those of us who have traveled and have themselves thought about cultural peculiarities Twain pokes fun Sometimes at himself and sometimes at others His travelling companions cannot be bothered to learn the names of their guides so they call them all Fergusson This they can pronounce Yet this also shows their ridiculous sense of self importance In France, none of the French understand what they say, but it never occurs to them that this is due to their own inability to speak the language properly Such is the humor Humor circling around culture There are pokes at the Catholic Church and the grandiose claims made in the travel guides of his time.I had planned on giving the book four stars I enjoyed it all the way through until the excursion arrived in the Middle East Here I began to have serious trouble Twain s prejudicial view of Arabs is disturbing, at least for those of us with a modern sensibility From this point on his deprecatory views reverberate in all that he relates In the latter third of the book his negative views become a rant The humor became sour and repetitive His distaste for Arab nations and people prevented him from appreciating what these lands could have offered him His attitude just wrecks the fun What began as a pleasure excursion of curiosity, exploration and discovery ends as a funeral excursion without a corpse These are his own words, found at the book s conclusion I feel they appropriately capture the book s end I must clarify that despite numerous tribulations no one died on the trip The audiobook is wonderfully narrated by Grover Gardner Easy to follow and spoken at a perfect speed The Americans speaking French are totally hysterical This adds to the humor The narration is just how it should be, and so have given it five stars.This book is interesting and very funny Unfortunately, that ends when Twain arrives in the Middle East When you read Twain you realize he is head and shoulders above other authors, even really good authors How do you measure the level of his genius I don t know Physicists used to rate the genius level of other physicists on a scale of 1 10, and then along came Dick Feynman whom everyone agreed was off scale Twain s ability as a writer might just be off scale , too I have seen estimates of Goethe s and Shakespeare s IQs which are at the top end of all humanity s and I m quite sure Mark Twain is at least their equal, intellectually Thank god for Mark Twain, accessible to the common man, andfun than a barrel of monkeys The term LOL which means Laugh Out Loud takes on a whole new meaning when you read Twain I remember the last time I laughed out loud like this was when I was commuting back and forth to work from the Upper West Side to Midtown on the IRT As you know, Manhattan subways are pretty sober places and the cold fluorescent light and the bitter taste smell of the lingering asbestos brake particles in the air and the other vaguely metallic and pungent smells of the underground train lair lends a sort of uber reality to the scene as do the grim faces of the people on the train contending as they are with the harsh business of survival in one of the roughest cities in the world I was reading Roughing It , one of Twain s other works, on those hard, cold grey seats on the sides of the train with people on either side of me and across from me and I would burst out laughing every page or so and people would look at me as if there was something wrong with me and I would say, I m sorry, this is really funny And I would hold out the book for them to see and then they would go back to staring out into the space in front of themselves rather than looking at me like I had broken some sort of Law of the Subway And then I would go back to reading and laughing out loud because Twain is so very, very wry It s too bad you can t bottle what Twain has to say, because if you could, you d be drunker than a 100 Indians dancing in a cornfield on the first sip It s really priceless. 10 percent humorous versus 90 percent tedium And that may even be a generous assessment.The humor is actually laugh out loud humor and I rarely LOL while reading but the tedium oh, the tedium It becameandof a trudge I may yet give this another try, as I really do want to readTwain, but not in the foreseeable future. This is one of those books which I think time has not been kind to All of the information was interesting, the little stories were a mixture of merely amusing, hysterically funny, and over the top annoying, and then there were the chapters which were absolutely fabulous so well written and beautiful that I begged for an entire book of that kind of writing Part of the problem here is that the world has become so politically correct that all the members of my book club agreed that we cringed at the frequent places where Twain was unkind, cruel, and usually very, very wrong about the people in the area The Portugese, Carthegenians, and Syrians are only a few which he castigated As a group we agreed that Twain s opinions were probably the mainstream opinions of most Americans of the time There are many worthwhile chapters in the book, but it should be read with the knowledge that a 19th Century man is writing it to a 21st Century audience. I found myself anxious to read this book expecting to enjoy the application of Mark Twain s wit to traveling abroad in Europe in 1867 The wit was there but hidden away amongst loads and loads of boring descriptions and events Reading this book was like watching soccer there were moments of interest tucked away in long minutes of people running around in a circle So much so, that when the funny or interesting parts came up, I found that I would miss the beginning because I had zoned out.This book is about Mark Twain s trip to Europe in 1867 aboard a cruise ship Surprisingly, this is one of Mark Twain s early works A travelogue is usually the type of book written by an established author, whom the reader anticipates hearing their perspective on traveling based on being a fan of their fiction.I ll start with the goods parts First there are some very funny parts Mark Twain does a great job making fun of the places he goes to and dealing with the constant cultural differences and people trying to sell them goods they don t need Also, it interesting to read that travel 150 years ago wasn t all that different Some of the conversations and complaints Mark Twain has with his traveling companions sound amazingly like those I have today with my friends I viewed this period as a golden age of travel, but, for example, shops in Paris put up signs saying that they speak English, when they didn t, only to lure tourists in to buy goods And wherever Twain goes, he is hounded by men offering to be his guide The bad part Most of it So boring that I felt like I was reading a text book Long, long, long descriptions of the places they visited that I could care less about This was before photography really took off, so these long descriptions were for the benefit of the reader It s also ironic that at the end is Mark Twain s famous quote Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness because he spends almost the entire book bagging on foreigners, their culture, and comparing it to back home where things are better I finished reading this book with the impression that everyone and everything abroad just sucks, except for a few pretty churches here and there.Skip this boring book. Hailed By The New York Herald As An Oasis In The Desert Of Works On Foreign Travel, The Innocents Abroad Was A Great Success When First Published, And It Remained The Bestselling Of All Twain S Works Throughout His Lifetime It Shows The Author At The Height Of His Literary Power As He Records Razor Sharp, Often Hilarious, Observations Of The People He Meets And Places He Visits During A Trip To Europe And The Holy Land In Originally A Series Of Travel Letters Written For A San Francisco Newspaper, The Book Presents A Refreshingly Honest And Vivid View Of Such Places As Tangier, Marseilles, Gibraltar, Rome, Constantinople, And Damascus Twain S Humor Takes A Particularly Satirical Turn Toward Tourists Who Rely On Travel Guidebooks Rather Than Personal Impressions To Define Their Travel Experiences The Book Alternates Light Hearted Chapters With Serious Passages Involving History, Statistics, And Descriptions Of Religious Relics, Artwork, And ArchitectureFrom Amusements And Tribulations At Sea, Viewing The Outrageous Cancan In Paris, And Witnessing The Notable Sights Of Venice, To Observing The Grandeur Of St Peter S, Ascending Vesuvius, And Contemplating The Remains Of Solomon S Temple, This Classic Will Delight A Wide Audience, Including Longtime Fans Of The American Humorist And Anyone Who Enjoys An Entertaining And Enlightening Travel Book This Edition Also Includes All The Illustrations From The Original Publication APRIL 15 Absolutely excellent book knew Twain was a great storyteller, but forgot what a good writer he is, too That said, I m halfway through he s just finished Europe and heading to the Middle East , and so going to take a break before continuing This is beautifully written and hysterically funny stuff, but probably better to spread it out and enjoy it, rather than race to the end like I do with fiction.The Innocents Abroad reads like the best Bill Bryson, except evenpolitically incorrect and therefore even funnier It s also surprising how current this is except for references to things like horses and gaslights, most of this could have been written today since basically ruins are ruins, and French and Italians are French and Italians, or macaroni stuffing organ grinders, as Twain calls them in a particular fit of pique Great, classic stuff FINISHED, AUGUST 15 Aannnddfinished Took forever, but this book is just so dense, so rich, so well writtenyou really have to concentrate when you read, but you ll be rewarded with gems on almost every page He goes on a bit when he actually gets to describing some of the temples, villages, etc that he visits but this is a travel book after all, and I came away not only wildly entertained, but also with a lot of new and fascinating information Overall and much to my surprise I d almost put this up there with Peter Fleming s News From Tartary, which is about the highest praise a humorous travel book can receive