Book Review: The Golden Flea, by Michael Rips

the golden flea
Image belongs to W.W. Norton & Company.

Title:  The Golden Flea
Author:  Michael Rips
Genre:  Nonfiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

For decades, the Chelsea Flea Market on the west side of Manhattan drew shoppers seeking treasures in booths crammed with vintage dresses, ancient swords, glass eyeballs, Afghan rugs, West African fetish dolls, Old Master paintings, and more

Writing with a beguiling style that has won praise from Joan Didion and Susan Orlean, Rips introduces the Flea’s lovable, oddball vendors, including the Haberdasher, who only sells to those he deems worthy; the Art Dealer, whose obscure paintings often go for enormous sums; the Troubadour, who sings to attract customers; as well pickers and collectors of every stripe. As Rips’ passion for collecting grows, and the Flea’s last days loom, he undertakes a quest to prove the provenance of a mysterious painting that might just be the one.

The Golden Flea was so far outside my normal reading taste that I’m not even sure why it caught my eye—and I LOVED it! I was intrigued from the very first page, and I ended up being totally captivated. (Except the fetishes. Those were just gross.) Rips’ writing brings to life vibrant people and a colorful setting—in a completely unexpected place. The characters are quirky but fascinating, and I was sad to realize the Chelsea Flea Market and its inhabitants are a thing of the past.

Michael Rips is an author, lawyer, and supporter of the arts. The Golden Flea is his new book.

(Galley courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company in exchange for an honest review.)

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