Believe it or not….let’s be skeptical…Les Misérables


December 15, 2012 by kittynh

I’ve mentioned the very old edition of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” book that belonged to my grandmother.

There are two mentions of Victor Hugo and “Les Misérables” in the book.  The title “Believe it or Not”, was Robert Ripley’s way of skirting the truth on more than one occasion.  I thought with the movie coming out, it might be fun to take a skeptic look as some assertions about the book!

Ripley was an interesting character.  He promoted himself as a world traveler at a time when few people could afford to travel.  Those that could, rarely chose to travel to the far flung areas of the world where disease, wild animals, bad water, or the natives, could kill you at any moment.  Ripley gave the impression of personally finding every strange and unusual fact reported in his newspaper feature “Believe it or Not”.  His illustrations were also a huge part of the popularity of his features.  Though Ripley made himself, and his indeed interesting lifestyle, the focus of his career.

So, do I “Believe it or Not” with the Victor Hugo parts of the book?  The first, is the one I find ” perhaps Not”.  It could be true, but I’ve heard this same letter exchange story about other famous authors and their well known books.  My skeptic senses are tingling that this one needs more research.


The other assertion, that the book has the world’s longest sentence, I feel very comfortable with believing “not”.   I’m sure there is another book out there that has been written without a period at all.  But that author was trying to write that way.  I like to think Victor just got carried away, and forgot.  So, while not the world’s longest sentence, it certainly is worthy of note.  If nothing else, the text of the sentence is worth a read.  Ripley puts it in his book, and I will share it here with you.

“823 words, 93 commas, 51 semicolons, 4 dashes”

One of my greatest failings as a writer are my very long sentences.  But I’ve ye to top this sentence!



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