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Download A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley Audiobook, by Neal Thompson Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Neal Thompson Narrator: Marc Cashman Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2013 ISBN: 9780385366366
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The breathtaking life of a quintessential American: a Frankenstein monster stitched together with equal parts genius, bravado, insecurity, and propaganda. A master of oddities, Ripley himself was the purest form of his own collection, and Neal Thompson is his wondrous exhibitor.”

    Brad Meltzer, #1 New York Times bestselling author

  • A Curious Man is the rollicking, terrific story of one of America’s greatest men…Ripley brought back to an awed nation the richness of an endlessly exotic world, and Neal Thompson tells the story with a perfectly pitched sense of what makes such a man, and a nation, tick."

    Peter Heller, New York Times bestselling author

  • “The life story of Robert ‘Believe It or Not!’ Ripley is as intriguing as the many oddities in which he delighted.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Deliriously entertaining…In Thompson’s vivid rendering, LeRoy Robert Ripley leads a life best described as Horatio-Alger-as-directed-by-Preston-Sturges-at-his-madcap-best…At the peak of his popularity, Believe It or Not had more than eighty million readers and received around two million fan letters a month. Meanwhile, Ripley’s personal life was as overstuffed as his professional one, as he compulsively collected objects, pets, and mistresses to fill his grand twenty-eight-room mansion…The novelty or even extremity is not the true appeal—instead, it’s the experience. Random discovery. Each link leading to other links, creating a simulacrum of worlds both remarkably similar and different from our own.”

    Los Angeles Review of Books

  • “An engaging, fast-moving biography…makes the case that Ripley was among the first media celebrities and that his affection for the grotesque and the extreme shaped American pop culture.”

    Columbus Dispatch

  • “Thompson’s well-researched title winningly covers Robert Ripley's personal life and career…Narrator Marc Cashman's even pacing helps make this a particularly listenable biography. Verdict: Highly recommended for all public libraries.”

    Library Journal (starred audio review)

  • “Although [he was] sometimes a boor, with biases and awkwardness on display, Ripley’s dedication to learning and his success in illustrating elusive realities is conveyed by Thompson in a manner that makes Ripley a sympathetic character. Between the world wars and during the Great Depression, Ripley provided escape and entertainment that lives on in today’s popular culture that is full of over-the-top reality TV shows and excessive superlatives…A must read for those who enjoy rags-to-riches stories or anything out of the ordinary.”

    Library Journal

  • “Robert Ripley was as unique and fascinating as the ‘Believe It or Not’ newspaper feature that made him one of the most popular and widely read syndicated cartoonists in the country during the 1930s, and Thompson delivers an equally fascinating biography that captures the influence of Ripley’s work life then and now, well into the age of television and the Internet…Thompson superbly shows how Ripley’s work is the basis for today’s more extreme reality shows by teaching readers ‘to gape with respect at the weirdness of man and nature.’”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Ripley’s amazing American life itself plays out like an impossible fairy tale.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for May 2013
  • An Amazon Top 100 Book of 2013
  • A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2013 in Nonfiction
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About the Author
Author Neal Thompson

Neal Thompson is a veteran journalist and author of three previous books: Light This Candle, Driving with the Devil, and Hurricane Season. Thompson has been featured on NPR, ESPN, the History Channel, C-Span, Fox, and TNT, and his stories have appeared in Outside, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Men’s Health, Backpacker, The Washington Post Magazine, and The Huffington Post. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two sons.

About the Narrator

Marc Cashman is a three-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award for audiobook narration. His voice has also been heard locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally on radio, television, film, documentaries, radio plays, and video games.