Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Around the world in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds

It's hard to imagine any woman daring--or crazy--enough to set out on a solo trip around the world on less than three days notice.  Harder still to imagine her embarking on that journey (expected to last almost three months) carrying nothing more than a small Gladstone bag.  However, that's what not one--but two--ambitious female journalists did in1889 as Matthew Goodman recounts in his new, nonfiction book, Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World.  The contest, as originally proposed by The World newspaper, pitted a single female journalist, Nellie Bly, against the fictional travel record set by Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days.  It was a brilliant publicity stunt; soon everyone was talking about the contest.  Within days, a rival newspaper had upped The World's ante by sponsoring a second woman, Elizabeth Bisland, to challenge both Fogg and Bly.

On November 14, Bly boarded a steamer bound for England; four hours later, Bisland was on a train thundering toward Chicago, where she would connect with another train heading west via the newly completed transcontinental railroad.  Bly was a no holds barred reporter who had garnered respect in a male-dominated profession by infiltrating an insane asylum to expose the inhuman treatment of women inmates.  Bisland, in contrast, was a cultured Southerner and a member of New York's artistic set.  Eighty Days is a fast-paced adventure full of missed connections, storms at sea and runaway trains with Goodman relating each woman’s daring exploits in alternating chapters.  I won’t spoil the story by telling you who wins, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Even if you don’t intend to travel 28,000 miles or circumnavigate the globe, be sure to visit the Library’s travel section (or search the catalog) for helpful guides to attractions, restaurants, and accommodations in the U.S. and around the world.  Closer to home, visit Indiana’s Office of Tourism for information about events and discounts throughout the state and be sure to check out the Library's summer schedule for a variety of terrific programs.  Meanwhile, don't forget to lighten your own Gladstone bag by taking advantage of the Library's free downloadable audio and eBooks when you travel.

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