The Info List - James Thurber

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Althea Addams Thurber (1925-1935) Helen Wismer Thurber (1935-1961)

Children Rosemary Thurber

James Grover Thurber (December 8, 1894 – November 2, 1961) was an American cartoonist, author, humorist, journalist, playwright, and celebrated wit. He was best known for his cartoons and short stories published mainly in The New Yorker
The New Yorker
magazine, such as "The Catbird Seat," and collected in his numerous books. He was one of the most popular humorists of his time, as he celebrated the comic frustrations and eccentricities of ordinary people. He wrote the Broadway comedy The Male Animal
The Male Animal
in collaboration with his college friend Elliott Nugent; it was later adapted into a film starring Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda
and Olivia de Havilland. His short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" has been adapted for film twice, once in 1947 and again in 2013.


1 Life

1.1 Move to New York 1.2 Marriage and family 1.3 Death

2 Legacy and honors 3 Career

3.1 Writer 3.2 Cartoonist 3.3 Adaptations

4 Popular culture 5 Bibliography

5.1 Books 5.2 Children's books 5.3 Plays 5.4 Posthumous books 5.5 Short stories

6 See also 7 References 8 Further reading

8.1 Biographies of Thurber 8.2 Literature review

9 External links

Life[edit] Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio, to Charles L. Thurber and Mary Agnes "Mame" (née Fisher) Thurber on December 8, 1894. Both of his parents greatly influenced his work. His father was a sporadically employed clerk and minor politician who dreamed of being a lawyer or an actor. Thurber described his mother as a "born comedian" and "one of the finest comic talents I think I have ever known." She was a practical joker and, on one occasion, pretended to be crippled and attended a faith healer revival, only to jump up and proclaim herself healed.[1] Thurber and one of his brothers were playing a game of William Tell, and his brother shot James in the eye with an arrow. He lost that eye, and the injury later caused him to become almost entirely blind. He was unable to participate in sports and other activities in his childhood because of this injury, but he developed a creative mind which he used to express himself in writings.[1] Neurologist V .S. Ramachandran suggests that Thurber's imagination may be partly explained by Charles Bonnet syndrome, a neurological condition which causes complex visual hallucinations in people who have suffered some level of visual loss.[2] (This was the basis for the piece "The Admiral on the Wheel".) From 1913 to 1918, Thurber attended Ohio State University
Ohio State University
where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi
Phi Kappa Psi
fraternity. He never graduated from the university because his poor eyesight prevented him from taking a mandatory ROTC course.[3] In 1995 he was posthumously awarded a degree.[4]

Thurber's house in Columbus, Ohio

From 1918 to 1920, Thurber worked as a code clerk for the United States Department of State, first in Washington, D.C. and then at the embassy in Paris. On returning to Columbus, he began his career as a reporter for The Columbus Dispatch
The Columbus Dispatch
from 1921 to 1924. During part of this time, he reviewed books, films, and plays in a weekly column called "Credos and Curios", a title that was given to a posthumous collection of his work. Thurber returned to Paris during this period, where he wrote for the Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
and other newspapers.[4] Move to New York[edit] In 1925, Thurber moved to Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village
in New York City, getting a job as a reporter for the New York Evening Post. He joined the staff of The New Yorker
The New Yorker
in 1927 as an editor, with the help of E.B. White, his friend and fellow New Yorker contributor. His career as a cartoonist began in 1930 after White found some of Thurber's drawings in a trash can and submitted them for publication; White inked-in some of these earlier drawings to make them reproduce better for the magazine, and years later expressed deep regret that he had done such a thing. Thurber contributed both his writings and his drawings to The New Yorker until the 1950s. Marriage and family[edit] Thurber married Althea Adams in 1922, but the marriage was troubled and ended in divorce in May 1935.[1] They lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut, with their daughter Rosemary. He married Helen Wismer (1902–86) in June 1935.[5] Death[edit] Thurber's behavior became increasingly erratic and unpredictable in his last year. He was particularly so at a party hosted by Noël Coward and had to go back to the Algonquin Hotel
Algonquin Hotel
at six in the morning. Thurber was stricken with a blood clot on the brain on October 4, 1961, and underwent emergency surgery, drifting in and out of consciousness. The operation was successful, but he died, aged 66, due to complications from pneumonia. The doctors said his brain was senescent from several small strokes and hardening of the arteries. His last words, aside from the repeated word "God", were "God bless... God damn", according to his wife, Helen.[6] Legacy and honors[edit]

Established in 1997, the annual Thurber Prize honors outstanding examples of American humor.[7] In 2008, The Library of America
The Library of America
selected Thurber's story, " A Sort of Genius", first published in The New Yorker, for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime.[8] Two of his residences have been listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places: his childhood Thurber House
Thurber House
in Ohio and the Sanford-Curtis- Thurber House
Thurber House
in Fairfield County, Connecticut.[9][10]

Career[edit] Uniquely among major American literary figures, he became equally well known for his simple, surrealistic drawings and cartoons. Both his skills were helped along by the support of, and collaboration with, fellow New Yorker staff member E. B. White, who insisted that Thurber's sketches could stand on their own as artistic expressions. Thurber drew six covers and numerous classic illustrations for The New Yorker.[11] Writer[edit] The last twenty years of Thurber's life were filled with material and professional success in spite of his handicap. He published at least fourteen more books, including The Thurber Carnival (1945), Thurber Country (1953), and the extremely popular account of the life of the New Yorker editor Harold Ross, The Years with Ross (1959). A number of his short stories were made into movies, including "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1947). Many of his short stories are humorous fictional memoirs from his life, but he also wrote darker material, such as "The Whip-Poor-Will", a story of madness and murder. His best-known short stories are "The Dog That Bit People" and "The Night the Bed Fell"; they can be found in My Life and Hard Times, which was his "break-out" book. Among his other classics are The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Catbird Seat, A Couple of Hamburgers, The Greatest Man in the World, If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox. The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze has several short stories with a tense undercurrent of marital discord. The book was published the year of his divorce and remarriage. His 1941 story "You Could Look It Up",[12] about a three-foot adult being brought in to take a walk in a baseball game, is said to have inspired Bill Veeck's stunt with Eddie Gaedel with the St. Louis Browns in 1951. Veeck claimed an older provenance for the stunt, but was certainly aware of the Thurber story.[13] In addition to his other fiction, Thurber wrote over seventy-five fables, some of which were first published in "The New Yorker" (1939), then collected in Fables for Our Time & Famous Poems Illustrated (1940) and Further Fables for Our Time (1956). These were short stories that featured anthropomorphic animals (e.g. The Little Girl and the Wolf, his version of Little Red Riding Hood) as main characters, and ended with a moral as a tagline. An exception to this format was his most famous fable, The Unicorn in the Garden, which featured an all-human cast except for the unicorn, which doesn't speak. Thurber's fables were satirical, and the morals served as punchlines as well as advice to the reader, demonstrating "the complexity of life by depicting the world as an uncertain, precarious place, where few reliable guidelines exist."[14] His stories also included several book-length fairy tales, such as The White Deer (1945), The 13 Clocks
The 13 Clocks
(1950) and The Wonderful O
The Wonderful O
(1957). The latter was one of several of Thurber's works illustrated by Marc Simont. Thurber's prose for The New Yorker
The New Yorker
and other venues included numerous humorous essays. A favorite subject, especially toward the end of his life, was the English language. Pieces on this subject included "The Spreading 'You Know'," which decried the overuse of that pair of words in conversation, "The New Vocabularianism", "What Do You Mean It Was Brillig?", and many others. His short pieces – whether stories, essays or something in between – were referred to as "casuals" by Thurber and the staff of The New Yorker.[15] Thurber wrote a biographical memoir about the founder/publisher of The New Yorker, Harold Ross, entitled The Years with Ross (1958). He wrote a five-part New Yorker series, between 1947 and 1948, examining in depth the radio soap opera phenomenon, based on near-constant listening and researching over the same period. Leaving nearly no element of these programs unexamined, including their writers, producers, sponsors, performers, and listeners alike, Thurber republished the series in his anthology, The Beast in Me and Other Animals (1948), under the section title "Soapland." The series was one of the first to examine such a pop-culture phenomenon in depth. Cartoonist[edit] While Thurber drew his cartoons in the usual fashion in the 1920s and 1930s, his failing eyesight later required changes. He drew them on very large sheets of paper using a thick black crayon (or on black paper using white chalk, from which they were photographed and the colors reversed for publication). Regardless of method, his cartoons became as noted as his writings; they possessed an eerie, wobbly feel that seems to mirror his idiosyncratic view on life. He once wrote that people said it looked like he drew them under water. Dorothy Parker, a contemporary and friend of Thurber, referred to his cartoons as having the "semblance of unbaked cookies". The last drawing Thurber completed was a self-portrait in yellow crayon on black paper, which was featured as the cover of Time magazine on July 9, 1951.[16] The same drawing was used for the dust jacket of The Thurber Album (1952). Adaptations[edit]

Thurber teamed with college schoolmate (and actor/director) Elliott Nugent to write The Male Animal, a comic drama that became a major Broadway hit in 1939. The play was adapted as a film by the same name in 1942, starring Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland
Olivia de Havilland
and Jack Carson. In 1947 his short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", was loosely adapted as a film by the same name. Danny Kaye
Danny Kaye
played the title character. In 1951 United Productions of America
United Productions of America
announced an animated feature to be based on Thurber's work, titled Men, Women and Dogs.[17] The only part of the ambitious project that was eventually released was the UPA cartoon The Unicorn in the Garden (1953).[18] In 1960, Thurber fulfilled a long-standing desire to be on the professional stage and played himself in 88 performances of the revue A Thurber Carnival
A Thurber Carnival
(which echoes the title of his 1945 book, The Thurber Carnival). It was based on a selection of Thurber's stories and cartoon captions. Thurber appeared in the sketch " File
and Forget". The sketch consists of Thurber dictating a series of letters in a vain attempt to keep one of his publishers from sending him books he did not order, and the escalating confusion of the replies.[19] Thurber won a special Tony Award
Tony Award
for the adapted script of the Carnival.[20] In 1961, "The Secret Life of James Thurber" aired on The DuPont Show with June Allyson. Adolphe Menjou
Adolphe Menjou
appeared in the program as Fitch, and Orson Bean
Orson Bean
and Sue Randall
Sue Randall
portrayed John and Ellen Monroe. In 1969-70, a full series based on Thurber's writings and life, entitled My World and Welcome to It, was broadcast on NBC. It starred William Windom as the Thurber figure. Featuring animated portions in addition to live actors, the show won a 1970 Emmy Award
Emmy Award
as the year's best comedy series. Windom won an Emmy as well. He went on to perform Thurber material in a one-man stage show. In 1972 another film adaptation, The War Between Men and Women, starring Jack Lemmon, concludes with an animated version of Thurber's classic anti-war work "The Last Flower". In 2013, a new adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller
Ben Stiller
as the title character.

Popular culture[edit]

Beginning during his own father's terminal illness, television broadcaster Keith Olbermann
Keith Olbermann
read excerpts from Thurber's short stories during the closing segment of his MS NBC
program Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Fridays, which he called "Fridays with Thurber."[21] On an episode of Norm Macdonald's video podcast, Norm Macdonald
Norm Macdonald
Live, Norm tells a story in which comedian Larry Miller acknowledges that his biggest influence in comedy was Thurber.

Bibliography[edit] Books[edit]

Is Sex Necessary? or, Why You Feel The Way You Do, (1929 with E. B. White), 75th anniv. edition (2004) with foreword by John Updike, ISBN 0-06-073314-4 The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities, 1931 The Seal in the Bedroom and Other Predicaments, 1932 My Life and Hard Times, 1933 ISBN 0-06-093308-9 The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze, 1935 Let Your Mind Alone! and Other More Or Less Inspirational Pieces, 1937 The Last Flower, 1939, reissued 2007 ISBN 978-1-58729-620-8 Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated, 1940 ISBN 0-06-090999-4 My World – And Welcome To It, 1942 ISBN 0-15-662344-7 Men, Women and Dogs, 1943 The Thurber Carnival (anthology), 1945, ISBN 0-06-093287-2, ISBN 0-394-60085-1 (Modern Library Edition) The Beast in Me and Other Animals, 1948 ISBN 0-15-610850-X The Thurber Album, 1952 Thurber Country, 1953 Thurber's Dogs, 1955 Further Fables For Our Time, 1956 Alarms and Diversions (anthology), 1957 The Years With Ross, 1959 ISBN 0-06-095971-1 Lanterns and Lances, 1961

Children's books[edit]

Many Moons, (children) 1943 (later condensed as The Princess Who Wanted The Moon) The Great Quillow, (children) 1944 The White Deer, (children) 1945 The 13 Clocks, (children) 1950 The Wonderful O, (children) 1957


The Male Animal, 1940 (with Elliott Nugent) A Thurber Carnival, 1960

Posthumous books[edit]

Credos and Curios, 1962 (ed. Helen W. Thurber) Thurber & Company, 1966 (ed. Helen W. Thurber) Selected Letters of James Thurber, 1981 (ed. Helen W. Thurber & Edward Weeks) ISBN 978-0-316844-44-4 Collecting Himself: James Thurber
James Thurber
on Writing and Writers, Humor and Himself, 1989 (ed. Michael J. Rosen) Thurber On Crime, 1991 (ed. Robert Lopresti) ISBN 978-0-892964-50-5 People Have More Fun Than Anybody: A Centennial Celebration of Drawings and Writings by James Thurber, 1994 (ed. Michael J. Rosen) ISBN 978-0-151000-94-4 James Thurber: Writings and Drawings (anthology), 1996, (ed. Garrison Keillor), Library of America, ISBN 978-1-883011-22-2 The Dog Department: James Thurber
James Thurber
on Hounds, Scotties, and Talking Poodles, 2001 (ed. Michael J. Rosen) ISBN 978-0-060196-56-1 The Thurber Letters: The Wit, Wisdom, and Surprising Life of James Thurber, 2002 (ed. Harrison Kinney, with Rosemary A. Thurber) ISBN 978-0-743223-43-0

Short stories[edit] This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

"The Man Who Hated Moonbaum" "The Black Magic of Barney Haller" "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" "The Night the Bed Fell" "The Unicorn in the Garden" "The Moth and the Star" "The Rabbits Who Caused All the Trouble" "The Macbeth Murder Mystery", 1937 (printed in The New Yorker) "You Could Look It Up", 1941 "The Catbird Seat", 1942 "The Secret Life of James Thurber", 1943 "The Breaking up of the Winships", 1945 "A Couple of Hamburgers" "The Greatest Man in the World" "The Cane in the Corridor" "If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox" "The Bear Who Let It Alone" "The Princess and the Tin Box" "The Dog that Bit People" "The Lady on 142" "The Remarkable Case of Mr.Bruhl" "The Scotty Who Knew Too Much" "The Night the Ghost Got In" "The Car We Had to Push" "The Day the Dam Broke" "More Alarms at Night" "A Sequence of Servants" "University Days" "Draft Board Nights" "The Wood Duck" "The Tiger Who Was to Be King" "The Owl Who was God" "The Peacelike Mongoose" " File
and Forget"[22] "The Whip-Poor-Will" "Mr. Preble Gets Rid of His Wife"

This section lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. Please make it easier to conduct research by listing ISBNs. If the Cite book or citation templates are in use, you may add ISBNs automatically, or discuss this issue on the talk page. (October 2014)

See also[edit]

The Battle of the Sexes (1959 film)
The Battle of the Sexes (1959 film)
based on "The Catbird Seat" Walter Mitty, expression


^ a b c Liukkonen, Petri. "James Thurber". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski
Public Library. Archived from the original on August 19, 2006.  ^ V.S. Ramachandran; Sandra Blakeslee (1988). Phantoms in the Brain. HarperCollins. pp. 85–7.  ^ Thurber House. "James Thurber". Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2007-10-14.  ^ a b Thurber House. "James Thurber: His Life & Times". Archived from the original on January 14, 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-14.  ^ "Helen Thurber Is Dead at 84; Edited Writings of Husband". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 11 January 2016.  ^ Bernstein, Burton (1975). Thurber. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 501. ISBN 0-396-07027-2.  ^ Grossberg, Michael (October 5, 2009). "Frazier first to win Thurber Prize twice". The Columbus Dispatch.  ^ "True Crime: An American Anthology". Library of America.  ^ "CONNECTICUT - Fairfield County". National Register of Historic Places.  ^ "OHIO - Franklin County". National Register of Historic Places.  ^ "Dec. 8, 2015: birthday: James Thurber". The Writer’s Almanac.  ^ "You Could Look It Up", The Saturday Evening Post, April 5, 1941, pp. 9–11, 114, 116] ^ Veeck, Bill; Ed Linn (1962). "A Can of Beer, a Slice of Cake—and Thou, Eddie Gaedel", from Veeck – As In Wreck: The Autobiography of Bill Veeck. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 11–23. ISBN 0-226-85218-0.  ^ "The Modern Fable: James Thurber's Social Criticisms", by Ruth A. Maharg, Children's Literature Association Quarterly, Volume 9, Number 2, Summer 1984, pp. 72-73. ^ Sorel, Edward (1989-11-05). "The Business of Being Funny". The New York Times. Time Inc. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  ^ "Time Magazine Cover: James Thurber
James Thurber
– July 9, 1951". Time Archive: 1923 to the Present. Time Inc. 1951-07-09. Retrieved 2007-01-31.  ^ "Priceless Gift of Laughter". Time Archive: 1923 to the Present. Time Inc. 1951-07-09. Retrieved 2007-01-31.  ^ "The Unicorn in the Garden". The Big Cartoon Database. Retrieved 2007-01-31.  ^ Bernstein, Burton (1975). Thurber. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 477. ISBN 0-396-07027-2.  ^ "A Thurber Carnival". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved 2008-03-01.  ^ "Olbermann signs off msnbc - Entertainment - Television - TODAY.com". Today.msnbc.msn.com. Retrieved 2012-05-06.  ^ Thurber, James (January 8, 1949). " File
and Forget". The New Yorker. 24 (46): 24–48. 

Further reading[edit] Biographies of Thurber[edit]

Bernstein, Burton. 1975. Thurber. William Morrow & Co. ISBN 9780396070276 Fensch, Thomas. 2001. The Man Who Was Walter Mitty: The Life and Work of James Thurber. ISBN 9780738840833 Grauer, Neil A. 1994. Remember Laughter: A Life of James Thurber. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803221550 Kinney, Harrison. 1995. James Thurber: His Life and Times. Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 9780805039665

Literature review[edit]

Holmes, Charles S. 1972. The Clocks Of Columbus: The Literary Career of James Thurber
James Thurber
Atheneum. ISBN 9780689705748

External links[edit]

Wikiquote has quotations related to: James Thurber

has original works written by or about: James Thurber

Wikimedia Commons has media related to James Thurber.

The James Thurber
James Thurber
Papers The Ohio State University
Ohio State University
Libraries Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection Works by James Thurber
James Thurber
at Faded Page (Canada) Charles S. Holmes Research for The Clocks of Columbus The Ohio State University Libraries Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection The Harrison Kinney Archive for James Thurber: His Life and Times The Ohio State University
Ohio State University
Libraries Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection The Paris Review Interview The Thurber House
Thurber House
website "Thurber's World (and Welcome To it)" by Bill Ervolino, The Record (Bergen County, NJ), December 17, 1995 Pathfinder: James Grover Thurber – Thurber links portal The Last Flower
The Last Flower
– ballet after an idea by James Thurber; 1975 Origins of "the Thurber Dog" James Thurber
James Thurber
Biography, Encyclopedia of World Biography New Yorker magazine digital archive—Abstracts of 1,758 Thurber short stories, poems, cartoons and commentaries a list of James Thurber
James Thurber
books an alphabetical list of James Thurber
James Thurber
short stories If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox on YouTube
- 1982 Dramatization of the James Thurber
James Thurber
short story.

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 22149445 LCCN: n80036584 ISNI: 0000 0001 0877 7576 GND: 118757407 SELIBR: 227070 SUDOC: 027162966 BNF: cb11926624c (data) BIBSYS: 90093812 ULAN: 500072427 NLA: 35549562 NDL: 00458746 NKC: jn19990008530 BNE: XX1136515 RKD: 108