Around the World in Seventy-Two Days and Other Writings

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Nellie Bly was a newspaper reporter famous in the late 19th century for her stunt journalism—from getting herself locked into an insane asylum in NYC to investigate conditions to traveling around the world solo, no baggage, in an attempt to beat the fictional record by Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s tale. Her best work in this collection is indeed the lengthy travelogue she pens after she successfully circumnavigates the globe in 72 days. These ~100 pages show her smartest writing and also her most disturbingly racist/close-minded attitudes toward the natives, wildly dismissive of local customs that would inconvenience her (like the taking off of her shoes in a temple). After crossing by ship to England, then to France, she’s taken to meet Jules Verne and his wife, bringing a translator along to be the conduit between their conversation. Then it’s overland via train to Italy, then back in a boat for most of the rest until she reaches San Francisco before hotfooting it in a special express train back to New York. Miraculous of all was the fact that she only brought a bag she could carry, and wore a single dress the entire journey. She also bought a monkey which was later nearly tossed overboard due to superstition, but she saved it by suggesting that the ministers on board (who were also allegedly bringing bad luck) should be tossed as well.

The collection also includes her 1896 interview with Susan B. Anthony (“Just think, had I married at twenty, I would have been either a drudge or a doll for fifty-five years. Think of it!”), her undercover stint in the madhouse, a brief piece about Mexico City, and WWI reporting from the trenches in Austria.