By Neal Thompson
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A Curious Man is the marvelously compelling biography of Robert “Believe It or no longer” Ripley, the enigmatic cartoonist became globetrotting millionaire who received overseas repute by way of celebrating the world's strangest oddities, and whose outrageous showmanship taught us to think within the unbelievable.
As portrayed via acclaimed biographer Neal Thompson, Ripley’s lifestyles is the stuff of a vintage American fairy story. Buck-toothed and cursed via shyness, Ripley became his feel of being an interloper into an appreciation for the strangeness of the realm. After promoting his first sketch to Time magazine at age eighteen, extra cartooning triumphs undefined, however it was once his “Believe It or no longer” conceit and the wildly renowned radio exhibits it birthed that may make him essentially the most winning leisure figures of his time and spur him to go looking the globe’s farthest corners for strange evidence, unique human curiosities, and surprising phenomena.
Ripley thrilled in making outrageous declarations that in some way consistently became out to be true—such as that Charles Lindbergh used to be in basic terms the sixty-seventh guy to fly around the Atlantic or that “The megastar Spangled Banner” was once not the nationwide anthem. Assisted via an unique harem of lady admirers and by way of ex-banker Norbert Pearlroth, a loyal researcher who spoke 11 languages, Ripley concurrently embodied the spirit of Peter Pan, the fearlessness of Marco Polo and the promoting savvy of P. T. Barnum.
In a really actual feel, Ripley sought to remake the world’s aesthetic. He demanded recognize in the event you have been categorised “eccentrics” or “freaks”—whether or not it's E. L. Blystone, who wrote 1,615 alphabet letters on a grain of rice, or the fellow who may perhaps swallow his personal nose.
By the Thirties Ripley possessed an enormous fortune, a personal yacht, and a twenty-eight room mansion stocked with such “oddities” as shrunken heads and medieval torture units, and his pioneering firsts in print, radio, and tv have been tapping into anything deep within the American consciousness—a flavor for the titillating and unique, and a fascination with the quickest, greatest, dumbest and weirdest. this present day, that legacy keeps and will be obvious in fact television, YouTube, America’s Funniest domestic movies, Jackass, MythBusters and a number of alternative pop-culture phenomena.
In the tip Robert L. Ripley replaced everything. The best irony of his lifestyles, which used to be devoted to exalting the unusual and strange, is that he can have been the main striking oddity of all.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional resources for A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley
On gradual information days, he’d turn throughout the notebooks and cobble jointly sketches approximately such achievements. One sketch, entitled The Iron guy, featured males who walked or ran lengthy distances, like John Ennis, who crossed the United States strolling in 80 days. one other, known as a few well-known Kicks, profiled the longest box objective and the main kicks in a row. In a few Jumps he featured severe snowboarding and ice-skating leaps, and in a few Baseball documents he provided hard-to-believe swings of the bat. Turning to soccer, Gridiron Oddities incorporated a 105-yard landing by means of a participant who concealed the ball lower than his jersey and a online game within which Harvard beat Exeter, 158–0. Ripley’s knack for finding and depicting abnormal evidence proved particularly valuable throughout the wintry weather lull, a dry interval for athletes and the lads hired to attract them. On a kind of gradual days in December 1916, the enterprising cartoonist skimmed via his scrapbook, pulled jointly a number of striking feats of athletic patience, and drew a comic strip for every. One guy had stayed less than water for 6 mins, one other skipped rope 11,810 occasions, whereas one other ran 623 miles in 142 hours, and males as soon as boxed to a draw after seven and a part hours. He known as this comic strip strange RECORDS—a harbinger of his eventual “big proposal. ” different slack days, he’d whip up one other comic strip of Demon Dug, who ached all iciness for baseball season. Globe readers could see Dug in mattress, sulking: “No Baseball, an’ no soccer, a-a-aw! Woe is me—I’m a woe! ” Dug and his ragamuffin buddies mirrored Ripley’s admiration for the outcast and the underdog. The cartoons that includes patience and success, in the meantime, confirmed Ripley’s appreciation for winners, those who have been the easiest at anything. Readers appeared to enjoy the combo, specially this rising specialise in the off-the-wall accomplishments by means of these striving to be quickest, longest, farthest, and most sensible. acknowledged the Globe in a promotional advert: “If you actually savour artwork and literature mixed, you can’t come up with the money for to overlook Ripley. ” He used to be onto whatever, yet his progress—and the good-time long island parties—were quickly interrupted by means of warfare. while THE struggling with in Europe first started, Ripley joked in print approximately America’s apathy, very likely conveying his personal. One caricature confirmed a guy at a ball online game maintaining a newspaper lined with headlines approximately battle. “War? ” says the activities fan. “Who cares? ” yet because the usa devoted itself to conflict within the spring of 1917, global struggle I grew to become the dominant subject matter of Ripley’s cartoons, in particular after he used to be exempted from army provider. The lately handed Selective carrier Act required Ripley to fill out a draft registration card, on which he indexed his age as twenty-five (he was once quite twenty-seven) and his career as “artist, author, cartoonist. ” requested even if he had any family depending on him for help, Ripley wrote that he used to be liable for “two dependents,” together with a “brother lower than 12. ” (Doug used to be nonetheless residing with relatives associates in Santa Rosa, and Ripley had endured to ship funds.