Certain ideas have been done to death, and parody as a form is particularly susceptible to this pitfall. But when a book takes an oft-attempted task and does it well, there is extra cause for celebration. Eric Metaxas and Marc Dennis’s Don’t You Believe It! accomplishes just such a feat.
Don’t You Believe It! parodies the venerable Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not!” newspaper cartoons that have been running (and parodied) since 1918. Metaxas and Dennis deserve kudos for following the oft-broken, but essential rule of parody: the send-up must mimic the original in every way–except content. And Don’t You Believe It! looks and sounds just like Ripley’s; the attention to detail, down to the oddly stilted, old-time quality of Metaxas’s text, makes the book’s looniness downright sublime.
If you’re not familiar with the original Ripley’s cartoons, Don’t You Believe It! is likely to leave you cold or at least a bit puzzled. But if you’ve ever read about the man who wore candles for a hat or the miner who got a steel bar lodged in his skull, this parody will have you laughing hard. Consider this phenomenon: “The Loco Schoolmaster, a hill in Paxtua, Mexico, gives travelers who ascend to its peak the temporary illusion of being much more educated than they actually are.”
If you aren’t entertained by geographic features, try wildlife: “Tanu, a pet goat in the village of Murai, Uganda, is the legal guardian to each of the village’s 78 inhabitants–she rose to this position through a series of maneuvers so stunningly Machiavellian in their nature that the entire region was turned upside down–and all who opposed her lost their lives!” Don’t You Believe It! will tickle you–believe it!