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A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant…
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A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or… (utgåvan 2014)

av Neal Thompson

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
2492480,272 (3.67)6
The marvelously compelling biography of Robert Ripley, the enigmatic cartoonist turned globetrotting millionaire who won international fame by celebrating the world's strangest oddities.
Medlem:Petersos
Titel:A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley
Författare:Neal Thompson
Info:Three Rivers Press (2014), Paperback, 432 pages
Samlingar:Artists and Innovators, Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:
Taggar:Television

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

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» Se även 6 omnämnanden

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(Review coming soon) ( )
  bloodravenlib | Aug 17, 2020 |
This book raised some questions about what we should expect from biographers. Are they merely relating details of the life of a person, or should they provide more of a commentary on that life as well? Is what we might consider to be ‘neutral’ reporting actually just reinforcing the status quo? By not dwelling on the more questionable parts of a subject’s personality, is the biographer acting in an appropriate manner, or are they implicitly giving their approval by not spending more time examining those characteristics?

Robert Ripley is the subject of this biography. You’re likely familiar with the “Believe It Or Not!” brand; there was a TV show about it in the 80s, and there are Ripley’s museums in San Francisco and NYC. Mr. Ripley started as a cartoonist in the early 1900s, eventually travelling the world to visit over 200 countries, collecting information about parts of the world that were extremely foreign to people in the U.S., especially before the frequent use of photography or radio programming. This straightforward biography follows Mr. Ripley from his birth in Santa Rosa, California through to his death in New York nearly 60 years later.

The author, Mr. Thompson, is a fine writer. I hesitated a bit in the beginning, distracted by other books I received as gifts for Christmas. However, I sped through the second half of the book today, finishing it up as the Texans got destroyed by Kansas City in the playoffs. It’s written well, and I think maybe five or ten years ago I would have strongly recommended it for anyone interested in learning more about this particular figure in U.S. history.

But these days, I have more questions. For example, Mr. Ripley clearly had some misogynistic tendencies, and while Mr. Thompson does mention this (which a lesser author might gloss over even further), he doesn’t examine it in a thoughtful way. The larger issue, however, that I just don’t think received enough attention in this biography, is the ethics of the entire basis for the Believe It Or Not concept: how “weird” the world is outside of the U.S. I get the sense from this biography that Mr. Ripley felt that he respected other cultures, but I’m not entirely sure that he did. He was certainly well-traveled, and developed strong affinities for certain cultures (especially China), but his cartoons at times dipped into racist territory, and his collections of curios and oddities really just seems like a whole lot of ‘othering’ of non-U.S. cultures.

And this is where those questions I posed at the start of this review come up. What duty – if any – does the biographer have to the audience to delve deeper into the subject’s actions? Is a biographer merely a stenographer, pulling together clippings and filling in the blanks, or is he or she an investigative reporter, looking deeper into the subject and placing at least some level of judgment on the actions the subject has taken throughout his or her life? I think it’s more of the latter, or at least that’s my feeling after reading this book. Mr. Thompson spends really no ink exploring whether it was ethical or appropriate for a white man to travel to Africa and bring back and display (out of context) parts of the cultures on that continent. I don’t think it’s necessarily cut and dried; Mr. Ripley’s work did expose many in the U.S. to parts of the world they knew nothing about. But I don’t think the default should be that whatever Mr. Ripley did was value-neutral, which is what this book presents. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 9, 2017 |
Believe it or Not (BION), this is a fascinating biography as well as an enlightening look at an early 20th century American media phenomenon. I'm not old enough to remember the Ripley entertainment conglomerate but I do remember Ripley's BION cartoons and their "weird cross-cut of human life". I was surprised to learn of the many ways Ripley influenced American popular culture, for example, by inspiring a young Charles Schultz to send in a cartoon of his "ill-mannered" dog and in working to establish "The Star Spangled Banner" as the national anthem. This book is not all adulation, though. I was disappointed to learn that Ripley leased his name to promoters who used it to exploit the unfortunate in the name of profit.

Believe it or Not, the Ripley Entertainment empire still exists today as this BION website proves. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads. Thank you for the chance to win! ( )
  Shadow494 | Jun 20, 2016 |
For cartoonists, as with those in so many other fields, it takes more than talent to be successful. It also takes a big idea. For Charles Schulz, that idea took the form of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. For Jim Davis, it was a cat who prefers lasagna to mice. And for Robert Ripley, who began his career in San Francisco as a sports cartoonist, the big idea was a cartoon showing some of the strange-but-true oddities to be found in the world.

Within a very few years, the success of Ripley's "Believe It or Not!" turned this shy, buck-toothed young man into a wealthy, world-famous celebrity who lived a playboy lifestyle while Hugh Hefner was still a toddler. Besides his newspaper cartoon, Ripley also starred in radio and television programs, wrote books and sanctioned exhibits of the strange people and objects he had discovered. Neal Thompson tells all about this amazing life in "A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert 'Believe It or Not!' " (2013). Ripley, it turns out, was the kind of man who might have appeared in one of his own cartoons.

Among the oddities one learns about his life: Ripley traveled often to faraway places, but he was afraid of flying. As a young man, he was a handball champion. He also tried out for a major league baseball team. He played a key role in the adoption of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the national anthem. Barry Goldwater, who later ran for president, as a young man took Ripley down into the Grand Canyon for a radio broadcast. And a dog belonging to the aforementioned Charles Schulz, then 14 years old, once appeared in one of Ripley's cartoons. The dog ate pins, tacks, screws and razor blades.

One of the curious things about his life that Ripley kept secret was that while he was making as much as $350,000 a year during the Depression for drawing his cartoons, he paid a man named Norbert Pearlroth just $75 a week to dig out most of the oddities that appeared in those cartoons. Pearlroth didn't seem to mind, for he loved spending long hours in the library looking through books.

Ripley drank too much, and although an athlete as a young man, he turned fat and flabby in middle age. He died at 59.

Thompson's fine biography turns this "curious man" into someone who was flesh and blood, and even believable. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Jun 17, 2016 |
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The marvelously compelling biography of Robert Ripley, the enigmatic cartoonist turned globetrotting millionaire who won international fame by celebrating the world's strangest oddities.

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