- A CURIOUS MAN: an Oprah.com ‘Book of the Week‘, a Barnes & Noble ‘Booksellers’ Pick‘, an Amazon ‘Best Book of the Month‘, a Vanity Fair ‘Hot Type’ pick, an iTunes/iBookstore ‘Best Book of the Month’, an an NPR pick for 2013 (selected by Ben Fountain), a Parade magazine summer reading pick.
- Featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and the BBC, in Vanity Fair and the Wall Street Journal.
- And… on The Daily Show!
“Anyone who wants to understand America needs to read this book … Neal Thompson gives us a vivid portrait of this complex, restless man in all his maniacally conflicted glory.” –Ben Fountain, Winner of the Pen/Hemingway Award and author of the National Book Award Finalist Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
In 2007, I read a New York Times story headlined “O, Believers, Prepare to Be Amazed!” about a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium that had opened on Times Square. Reporter Edward Rothstein described the “voyeuristic sense of gaining entry to a forbidden, exotic and at times unsettling realm.” Rothstein seemed unexpectedly awed by the museum’s celebration of the freakish: “The freakish is the ultimate avant-garde, a finger in the eye of the buttoned-up bourgeois vision of ordered life, like a tattoo parlor in the midst of a holistic spa.”
Midway into the story, Rothstein introduced the proprietor of the metaphorical tattoo parlor — “a cross between the Coney Island barker and the cultural anthropologist” — and cited the 1936 newspaper poll that had ranked Robert Ripley as the most popular man in America. As a former newspaper reporter and a lifelong newspaper reader, I had known about Ripley’s cartoons since childhood. But I’d never stopped to consider the man behind it all. I grabbed a pen and started underlining the Times reporter’s words — “Ripley’s enthusiastic refusal to homogenize humanity’s extremes … his gaze roamed across his own culture’s peculiarities too, treating them with the same amazement.”
My curiosity aroused, I visited Amazon.com, and quickly learned that there existed no definitive biography of Ripley. Within weeks I had set aside the book project I’d been working on and began walking the five-year path that lead to this book.
I hope readers find Ripley’s life as fascinatingly weird, as freakish and impressive and inspiring as I did. Here’s an interview I did with the BBC:
“Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that the history of a time can be resolved in the biography of a few stout and earnest people. Robert Ripley was certainly one of those and, in this fascinating account, Neal Thompson rescues for us a colorful slice of history.” –Colum McCann, bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin
“An intelligent and gripping tale that follows an unlikely cultural icon’s thrilling adventures both at home and abroad. Neal Thompson expertly captures the surprisingly complex character of Robert Ripley, and a life nearly too fantastic to be believed.” –Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City and American Rose
“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
Thompson has attitude, curiosity and affection —The Chicago Sun-Times
Neal Thompson has a nose for the strange and wonderful … a rich, compelling read for fans of the exotic and uncanny.’ - - Stewart O’Nan, author of The Odds
Thompson … displays all the skill of a seasoned journalist in his pacing and savvy storytelling. —Kirkus
Thompson writes with eloquent grace … The thoroughness of the author’s research is impressive. —The Indianapolis Star His prose crackles … —The Kansas City Star
Thompson’s writing is superb! He is a grand storyteller and does his homework in terms of research and getting the facts of the story straight. —The Boston Herald
It’s not often a non-fiction sports book will put a lump in your throat. —The Montreal Gazette
Thompson brings an infectious energy … —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
He has the journalist’s eye for detail and brevity. —The Buffalo News
Thompson knows how to capture character in action. —The Times-Picayune
… in the best tradition of David Halberstam. —Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights