Mark Twain on Travel Edited by Terry Mort (Lyons Press) Hyperactive Mark Twain (1835-1910) combined a restless mind with an insatiable appetite for travel. To satisfy his wanderlust, he started out traversing the Mississippi, vainly aspiring to become a 'steamboatman'. He graduated to 'the majestic panorama' of the 'Far West', the Pacific, India, the Middle East, Italy, Germany, the Alps and Paris. That's a big day out even by the standards of today's travellers. Mark Twain on Travel brings together fragments culled from the wanderer's handily episodic work. Terry Mort sets out to 'highlight Twain's style and also reflect his views on the important matters of the day'. Politics crop up more often than you might expect from a dandy who poured contempt on what he called 'smileless' prose. Among other targets, Twain lambasts the founders of modern Australia, exposed in an essay called Christmas Pudding, as more savage than the natives to whom they fed pies laced with arsenic. In a relatively light-hearted essay entitled Only One, Twain portrays the people of India as paradoxical, perhaps hypocritical. 'With them, all life seems to be sacred, except human life. Even the life of vermin is sacred and must not be taken.' Mort praises Twain's insight into humanity 'in all its absurdity, confusion, genius, bigotry, diversity, venality, achievement and continually interesting foolishness. His own included.' Throughout the collection, Twain makes great play of his bumbling-tourist credentials, freely highlighting his propensity to become drunk, sunburned and saddle sore. Twain, the original 'real holiday' chronicler, expresses his scorn for other writers who just mindlessly describe scenery as 'beautiful'. Some paragraphs in Mark Twain On Travel, however, are as big as the elephant he rode in Lahore. The distance between two full stops can seem as wide as the gulf between Arizona and the Alps. Mark Twain on Travel is available from www.paddyfield.com , priced $195.