Not So Innocently Abroad
Ken Richters is a Mark Twain impersonator, bringing the brash wit and razor-sharp insight of Mr. Clemens back to life, and he has a remarkable knack for not only embodying the Twain we know, but giving us a glimpse of what he might have thought of the modern era. So when Richters was given the chance to retrace the route that Twain took through Russia and Eastern Europe during Innocents Abroad, he leapt at the opportunity (after briefly considering whether it was a plot to sneakily deport him).
Not So Innocently Abroad chronicles Richters’ journey across the former Soviet region, and he proves as affable, open, and genuinely appreciative of the Russian tour as Twain was. He provides fascinating local color, and always casts himself as the target of mockery, never the cultures he encounters. There’s a wonderful class to Richters’ affectionate observations of these far-flung locales.
Most importantly, the book is pretty darn funny. The utterly shameless opening story about his dalliance with a Russian ballerina named Svetlana is the perfect mood setter for both our narrator and his take on Twain’s humor. There were plenty of chuckles to be had along the way, as Richters offered both his insights and the Twainian perspective on each city he visited.
And, like all great travelogues, it gave me a renewed appreciation for the destinations themselves. It never occurred to me that Russians would be as fond of Twain as we are, and to see such enthusiasm through the author’s eyes was a marvelous experience.
As thoughtful as it is enjoyable, Not So Innocently Abroad is not only the perfect companion piece to Twain’s own work, but it’s a tremendous look at how much (and how little) time changes people’s perspectives around the world. What a treat!
Exposition House Press