Mark Twain goes east and west

Mark Twain was an inveterate traveller. He published three fascinating books about his foreign trips and two more on the Mississippi and the American West. Continue reading Mark Twain goes east and west

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The life of Lafayette: You couldn’t make it up!

“There is properly no history; only biography”, wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, who may have been thinking of the Marquis de Lafayette. Continue reading The life of Lafayette: You couldn’t make it up!

Mark Twain on the fire and passion of an ice storm

Mark Twain’s travel tales – most of them genuine, some apocryphal – deserve to be better known. In Following the Equator: A Journey around the World (1897), he marvels at nature and civilization while lampooning racism, imperialism, and missionary zeal. Interspersed are fictional stories and marvellous descriptive passages – such as the one about an American ice storm. Continue reading Mark Twain on the fire and passion of an ice storm

Saving Venice from and for ourselves

“Venice is not so much a city as the representation of a city,” writes Peter Ackroyd in Venice: Pure City (2010). Variously called La Dominante, Serenissima, Queen of the Adriatic, City of Water, City of Masks, City of Bridges, The Floating City, and City of Canals, Venice and its lagoon are listed as a World Heritage Site. With such a reputation, what would we not do to save it? Continue reading Saving Venice from and for ourselves

If you go down to the woods (in Sri Lanka), you’re sure of a big surprise

Tracked down in the forests of northern Sri Lanka, a new species of venomous tarantula has been found. Related to the Goliath bird-eater, it is one of the world’s largest spiders with legs like the goddess Kali. Continue reading If you go down to the woods (in Sri Lanka), you’re sure of a big surprise