The Happiest Man in the World by Alec Wilkinson
An Account of the Life of Poppa Neutrino

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Synopsis

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 Neutrino’s 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 Neutrino’s 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.
 

About Alec Wilkinson

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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.
 
Published March 13, 2007 by Random House. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Travel, Action & Adventure. Non-fiction

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Among the highlights of their times together are visits to college and high-school football coaches to whom Neutrino attempts to pitch an idea that he believes will revolutionize football (it involves allowing quarterbacks and receivers to communicate during the action), as well as his attempt to...

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The New York Times

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Wilkinson is no cheerleader: he explicitly declares he isn’t putting Neutrino forward as a model, and he’s forthright about the mistakes Neutrino has made and the people he’s hurt.

Mar 18 2007 | Read Full Review of The Happiest Man in the World...

The Guardian

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The Happiest Man in the World by Alec Wilkinson 301pp, Vintage, £8.99 Poppa Neutrino used to amuse himself by trying to invent an American football play that could not be stopped.

Feb 09 2008 | Read Full Review of The Happiest Man in the World...

Pajiba

I don’t ever attempt to preach how people should live their lives, but Neutrino has started multiple churches.

Dec 10 2008 | Read Full Review of The Happiest Man in the World...

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