He looked remarkably like a vampire…

Word count: 278 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

A great way to improve your writing skills is to emulate the work of others. That’s why, every week, I present a sentence that I’d happily imitate. Today’s comes from Jill Lepore in a story about Robert Ripley.

Somehow, the name Robert Ripley — associated with the world of Believe It Or Not! — takes me back to being a pre-teen. Ripley specialized in the kind of “queeriosities” that are most likely to engage the minds of 12- year-olds. Shrunken heads. Two-headed babies. A man without a stomach. What is it about that kind of thing that so captivates the young? And what, in turn, made it captivate Ripley, who was 28 before he started his investigations into the exotic and very unusual.

Writer Jill Leopore tries to make sense of Robert Ripley in a June 3/13 article in the New Yorker, headlined “The Oddyssey.” In this fascinating article she also gives me my sentence of the week:

Robert L. Ripley, who was heavyset and dainty, wore his dark widow’s peak slicked back flat and had teeth so jutting and crooked that, until he got some of them yanked out and straighter fakes jammed back in (which hurt like hell) he looked remarkably like a vampire. 

I like the way she juxtaposes “heavyset” with “dainty” and truly captures a very specific body-type — the sort of person who is often a very good dancer, despite being a rather large  size. As well, judging by the photo of Ripley, shown above, her vampire metaphor and her reference to his crooked teeth seem particularly apt. I almost feel as though I’ve met the man!