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Vicarious travel with a multimillionaire

Around the World on Hot Air and Two Wheels, by Malcolm Forbes. New York: Simon & Schuster. 271 pp. $24.95. There are many styles and reasons for travel. For Malcolm Forbes, fabulously wealthy owner of Forbes magazine, it is another opportunity for acquisition and achievement -- while having fun, too.

Cover and title page notwithstanding, Mr. Forbes is not really the author of this book, except for a short essay. He travels with an entourage which includes writers from various cycling magazines, to whom falls the task of chronicling the various trips. Forbes, as impresario, dominates both illustrations and text.

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An enthusiast of motorcycling and ballooning, Forbes's motto is ``Firstness is always fun.'' Thus he is the first to motorcycle in the USSR, Pakistan, and China, as well as the first to balloon over the Great Wall.

This is not the sort of book you sit down and read; it is a conversation starter, a curiosity. The appeal of this book is vicarious travel: Everybody likes to think of what he would do if he had a million dollars. Not too many people would think of a gorgeous, bright-yellow balloon shaped like the Sphinx.

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