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The Happiest Man in the World: An Account of the Life of Poppa Neutrinoby Alec Wilkinson
Synopses & Reviews
The Happiest Man in the World buoyantly describes seventy-four-year-old David Pearlman, a restless and migratory soul, a mariner, a musician, a member of the Explorers Club and a friend of the San Francisco Beats, a former preacher and sign painter, a polymath, a pauper, and a football strategist for the Red Mesa Redskins of the Navajo Nation. When Pearlman was fifty, he was bitten on the hand by a dog in Mexico and for two years got so sick that he thought he would die. When he recovered, he felt so different that he decided he needed a new name. He began calling himself Poppa Neutrino, after the itinerant particle that is so small it can hardly be detected. To Neutrino, the particle represents the elements of the hidden life that assert themselves discreetly.
Inspired by Thor Heyerdahl and Kon-Tiki, Neutrino is the only man ever to build a raft from garbage he found on the streets of New York and sail it across the North Atlantic.
The New York Daily News described the accomplishment as “the sail of the century.” National Geographic broadcast an account of the trip as part of its series on extreme adventures. And now he is on a quest to cross the Pacific on a raft. If he makes it, he plans to continue around the world. No one has ever sailed around the world on a raft. Meanwhile, he has invented the Neutrino Clock Offense, an unstoppable football play, which a former coach of the New York Jets describes as being as innovative as the forward pass.
The philosophical underpinnings of Neutrinos existence are what he calls Triads, a concept worked out after years of reading and reflection. He believes that each person, to be truly happy, must define his or her three deepest desires and pursue them remorselessly. Freedom, Joy, and Art are Neutrinos three.
The Happiest Man in the World is a lavish, exotic, funny, and deeply serious book about a man who has led a life of profound engagement and ceaseless adventure.
"Over the last few years, Wilkinson (Mr. Apology and Other Essays) has been spending quite a bit of time in the company of 'Poppa Neutrino,' a homeless man who's performed as a street musician in New Orleans and New York and traveled across the Atlantic in a homemade raft. So 'lavish and prodigal' is Neutrino's history that his barroom encounters with Kerouac and Ginsberg at the height of the beat era are dispensed with in a few sentences — after all, by that time, he'd already been crisscrossing the country for several years himself. In Wilkinson's company, Neutrino spends time in Arizona trying to persuade football coaches to use a passing play he's developed that could conceivably revolutionize the offensive game, winding up on a Navajo reservation where he volunteers with a high school team. Then it's off to Mexico, where he puts the finishing touches on one more raft, which he hopes to sail down the coast to South America and then across the Pacific. For the most part, Wilkinson simply observes, acting as our conduit to this abrasively compelling personality. But that's like saying Boswell was simply observing Johnson: the portrait of Neutrino that emerges from these encounters and anecdotes is a truly captivating story." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Critically acclaimed "New Yorker" contributor Wilkinson spent several years following the erratic trail of vagabond Poppa Neutrino--street musician, beatnik, raft man--for this disturbing and profound look at one man's life outside the boundaries of what most consider normality.
About the Author
Alec Wilkinson has been a writer at The New Yorker since 1980. Before that he was a policeman in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, and before that he was a rock and roll musician. He lives with his wife and son in New York City.
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