A goodies-filled account of a company just as fascinating as its subject matter.




Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! (Ripley’s Time Warp, 2018, etc.) celebrates a century of amassing curios and unbelievable facts.

This colorful, oversized book opens with a short but detailed biography of company founder and namesake, Robert Ripley. Born in 1890, Ripley was a socially awkward boy who turned his love for art into a career as a cartoonist. When working for the New York Globe in 1918, he created a cartoon panel called “Champs and Chumps,” a compilation of impressive athletic achievements that most consider the inception of Believe It Or Not! We learn about everything from his romances and handball obsession to his love of traveling. After his death in 1949, the company carried on, eventually adding to Ripley’s extensive collection of artifacts from around the world, like Marilyn Monroe’s gown (“the World’s Most Expensive Dress!”). While the collector had been involved in Vitaphone, radio, and TV productions, Believe It Or Not! continued in television and subsequently found its way online in the digital age. The book spotlights the lead cartoonists, from Ripley’s death to the present day, as well as lead researchers, including Norbert Pearlroth, whom Ripley hired in 1923 and who held the position for an astounding 53 years. There’s abundant coverage of places Ripley toured, like India, Africa, and, his favorite country to visit, China; specifics on artifacts collected, including shrunken heads from Ecuador; and descriptions of various attractions, like the company’s trademark Odditoriums, with locations worldwide. As in previous Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! publications, this book is jam-packed with full-page photographs and illustrations. A couple of pages are foldouts, like Ripley’s India-inspired cartoons, and there’s even a two-page collage of the company’s book covers. But the book also prominently features Ripley’s original artwork and comes with replicas (affixed to pages) of such items as an Odditorium pass and a Ripley-designed Christmas card that he would send to friends. Readers will surely appreciate images of Ripley’s personal collection, which filled three homes at the time of his death. But there are more recent acquisitions, too: African fantasy coffins (hard-carved coffins of unusual designs, such as a Mercedes Benz); Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber from the first two Star Wars films; and an artist’s rendering of James Bond’s 1960s Aston Martin made of recycled cardboard and glue. Equally intriguing are highlights of Ripley’s sometimes-provocative cartoons. For example, he published a cartoon soon after Charles Lindbergh’s famous 1927 flight, claiming Lindbergh was the 67th man to make a nonstop flight over the Atlantic Ocean. (This inflamed readers since it seemingly undermined Lindbergh’s achievement. It was a factual statement, however, as Ripley was accounting for all flights, not merely the solo ones.) The work fully catalogs present-day projects (museums and regularly published books) as well as things of yesteryear, such as television series (the Dean Cain–hosted 2000 revival remains in syndication). Overall, it’s a comprehensive package, with illuminating tidbits on Ripley—the man and the franchise.

A goodies-filled account of a company just as fascinating as its subject matter.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60991-240-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ripley Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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