Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Curious Man : The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!"

  • price: $15.00
  • isbn: 978-0-7704-3622-3
  • release: Jun 3rd, 2014
  • format Trade Paperback
  • category: Biography & Autobiography - Historical
  • About Neal Thompson
  • BuyNow
A Curious Man is the marvelously compelling biography of Robert “Believe It or Not” Ripley, the enigmatic cartoonist turned globetrotting millionaire who won international fame by celebrating the world's strangest oddities, and whose outrageous showmanship taught us to believe in the unbelievable.

As portrayed by acclaimed biographer Neal Thompson, Ripley’s life is the stuff of a classic American fairy tale. Buck-toothed and cursed by shyness, Ripley turned his sense of being an outsider into an appreciation for the strangeness of the world. After selling his first cartoon to Time magazine at age 
eighteen, more cartooning triumphs followed, but it was his “Believe It or Not” conceit and the wildly popular radio shows it birthed that would make him one of the most successful entertainment figures of his time and spur him to search the globe’s farthest corners for bizarre facts, exotic human curiosities, and shocking phenomena.

Ripley delighted in making outrageous declarations that somehow always turned out to be true—such as that Charles Lindbergh was only the sixty-seventh man to fly across the Atlantic or that “The Star Spangled Banner” was not the national anthem. Assisted by an exotic harem of female admirers and by ex-banker Norbert Pearlroth, a devoted researcher who spoke eleven languages, Ripley simultaneously embodied the spirit of Peter Pan, the fearlessness of Marco Polo and the marketing savvy of P. T. Barnum.
In a very real sense, Ripley sought to remake the world’s aesthetic. He demanded respect for those who were labeled “eccentrics” or “freaks”—whether it be E. L. Blystone, who wrote 1,615 alphabet letters on a grain of rice, or the man who could swallow his own nose.

By the 1930s Ripley possessed a vast fortune, a private yacht, and a twenty-eight room mansion stocked with such “oddities” as shrunken heads and medieval torture devices, and his pioneering firsts in print, radio, and television were tapping into something deep in the American consciousness—a taste for the titillating and exotic, and a fascination with the fastest, biggest, dumbest and most weird. Today, that legacy continues and can be seen in reality TV, YouTube, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Jackass, MythBusters and a host of other pop-culture phenomena. 

In the end Robert L. Ripley changed everything. The supreme irony of his life, which was dedicated to exalting the strange and unusual, is that he may have been the most amazing oddity of all.

My Impressions: 

This was an incredibly fascinating read. My family has always enjoyed going to the Ripleys Believe it Or Not museums when we see them and to get to read about the man before, during and after this transformation was remarkable.  

Ripley's early life was interesting to read about. I knew nothing of the man except for his strange and wonderful collections.It was a treat to learn about his upbringing,background and what led him to become the man we all know and love. My heart broke for him knowing that he was made fun of his whole life simply because he wore shabby clothes, had bad teeth and did not fit in with the other kids. I got the sense that since Ripley was a bucked tooth odd looking fellow that did not really belong he loved to celebrate oddities because he viewed himself as one as well on some level. 

To think Ripley was a sports cartoonist (self taught and highest paid in the world) that happened upon a weird curiosity that changed his life and ours forever. Granted his life was not all peaches. He had problems with the people he worked for, alcohol issues and was a womanizer as well, but even with all that his life was a fascinating journey. I am glad I selected this book to read about. Although not exactly "historical" it was intriguing.

Learn more about A Curious Man HERE. Read more advance praise HERE. See a timeline of Ripley’s life and travels HERE. See photos of Ripley HERE.

About the Author: 

Neal is a veteran journalist and author whose fourth book - a biography of eccentric world-traveling cartoonist Robert Ripley – scheduled to be published in 2012. Tentative titles: A Curious Man or The Curious Mr. Ripley.

Neal has appeared on ESPN, the History Channel, C-Span, Fox, TNT, and NPR, and has written for Outside, Esquire, BackpackerMen’s HealthSports Illustrated, etc. Prior to becoming a full-time author and freelancer he spent 15 years as a newspaper reporter, serving time at the Baltimore Sun, St. Petersburg Times, Bergen Record, Roanoke Times, and Philadelphia Inquirer. [Samples here and here; three favorite Balt Sun stories here, here, and here.]

I received a free copy of this book/Ebook/Product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The Bloggingforbooks Review Crew.
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