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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humor talk
James Thurber's brand of humor often went under the radar -- he didn't have scintillating wordplay, goofy puns or juvenile humor. (No offense to you, Mr. Barry -- I love your work too). But, as "James Thurber: Writings and Drawings" demonstrates, the subtle approach worked just as well.

Thurber wrote and drew so much during his lifetime that this book is...
Published on April 23, 2005 by E. A Solinas

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars moderate payback for investment
Somewhat humorous and interesting, especially to those interested in the history of periodical literature. Very long, however, and diminishing returns as is more and more of the same type of stuff.
Published 10 months ago by james m makepeace


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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humor talk, April 23, 2005
This review is from: James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) (Hardcover)
James Thurber's brand of humor often went under the radar -- he didn't have scintillating wordplay, goofy puns or juvenile humor. (No offense to you, Mr. Barry -- I love your work too). But, as "James Thurber: Writings and Drawings" demonstrates, the subtle approach worked just as well.

Thurber wrote and drew so much during his lifetime that this book is actually not a full collection, but a sort of "Best of" collection. Thurber turns a satirical eye at sex, marriage, men who bark like dogs, old ladies who foretell doom, some rather dry little fables and spoofs, and a look at how the Civil War might have ended if Grant had been recovering from a bender. Not to mention the entire text of Thurber's children's novel, "The 13 Clocks," a slightly twisted fantasy about a young prince who must rescue the Princess, with the help of the nonsense-spouting Golux (who is not a mere device).

Admittedly, not all of them are strictly meant for humor -- "My Life and Hard Times" is a short, entertaining autobiography, without the excuses and ego trips that many autobiographies have. There are also bittersweet memories, such as the story of a faithful dog that Thurber had when he was very small.

There are also quite a few pictures -- Thurber had a cute, rounded kind of style, without a lot of details. One example is "The Last Flower," an anti-war parable in which after a devastating war, civilization falls and people forget everything, even love. Not all the cartoons are as quietly grim, however -- one is a man, woman and child romping through various obstacles together, as well as several standalone cartoons.

"James Thurber: Writings and Drawings" shows Thurber off to best advantage. It's a great collection not only because Thurber was a wonderful humorist, but also because the pieces in here show the full range of what he could do. Included are humorous anecdotes, personal reflections, tributes, sad stories, fables fiction, and funny little cartoons -- it shows what a versatile writer he was. Not just a humorist, but a writer.

And a cartoonist as well -- Thurber was able to draw entire picture books that had no set story, but could be interpreted as the reader wished. Most of his cartoons were more relaxed, with a sort of rounded, simplistic style that looks like he doodled them while he was thinking.

"James Thurber: Writings and Drawings" is not only a good collection of this now-legendary writer's work, but a good introduction to Thurber as well. Definitely worth checking out.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-buy for Thurber lovers!, April 18, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) (Hardcover)
Humorist Garrison Keillor has assembled in one volume of more than 1,000 pages the essence of James Thurber as satirist, cartoonist, short story teller, memoirist, and general observer of the foibles of his fellow human beings. Here are excerpts from Thurber's collections of his NEW YORKER pieces as well as some previously uncollected works and the text of his children's classic THE THIRTEEN CLOCKS; in which he never "talks down" to the kids. Some readers will appreciate such views of "The Battle Between the Sexes" as "Is Sex Necessary" and "Women and Men." Others will chortle over the best of "My Life and Hard Times" and Thurber's look at NEW YORKER founding editor Harold Ross. Thurber, unlike Sam Clemens, was able to see that everything is funny even if it wasn't happening to "the other fellow."
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Olbermann Friday night readings, May 22, 2010
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jimac51 (Allentown, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) (Hardcover)
Like many others,I needed a high school teacher to introduce me to Thurber when Mr. Huffnell had the Freshman class read "The Lady Over the Bookcase"(included here). It's really not the best place to meet Thurber,as it's best to have some knowledge of both his writing and drawing before one can get the full effect of the piece. So,where to begin? Well,maybe Keith Olbermann's Friday readings on his TV show have whetted your appetite. Up until this mightily packed volume,there was The Thurber Carnival,an anthology put together during the author's prime,1945. That book is OK,but this volume is essential. Generous helpings from Thurber's collected essays and drawings,including a few uncollected goodies for the hardcore fan. Over the years,Thurber has been showcased in other media:a Danny Kaye film,"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"(rumored for a possible remake,seriously);a UPA cartoon of "The Unicorn in the Garden";TV's "My World & Welcome to It",with William Windom,who would later perform Thurber pieces onstage in two productions,a la Hal Holbrook's "Mark Twain Tonight";a Jack Lemmon film,"The War Between Men & Women"(the TV series and the Lemmon film both produced by Melville Shavelson & Danny Arnold),and, in 1960,"A Thurber Carnival" revue was on Broadway for a while. All of these with mixed results. The animation( besides the UPA short,the TV series and the Lemmon film contain animation)come closest.But Thurber is best read or read aloud(savor Keith's Friday nights while they last). The volume offered here is physically durable. It's meant to take a beating as it is pulled from the shelf and picked through as the reader finds another 60+ year old gem from the greatest American humorist since Mark Twain.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best kept secrets of American Literature!, May 7, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) (Hardcover)
I've often thought that Thurber doesn't get the credit today that he deserves as a writer. This is probably because his works are not "deep" in terms of meaning or content. His mastery of language, though,is superb, and his stories are some of the most hilarious and best written I have ever read. I can read many of them over and over and still laugh out loud! His cartoons are clever as well. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in humor and 20th century American literature.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thurber lives!, April 10, 2010
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This review is from: James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) (Hardcover)
When this edition first came out, I was so excited. I had fond memories of reading these stories in high school and gazing at the simple drawings that accompanied the stories.

And now, I am so excited that Keith Olbermann has begun reading Thurber on his Friday night broadcasts. Hen mentioned that relatives of Thurber have been quite appreciative. Here's to a wider audience for this great writer!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine selection that will enable you to understand why he was so popular, October 30, 2006
This review is from: James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) (Hardcover)
One should never confuse writing with a light touch for comic writing. Thurber expressed dislike for the word "humorist" and I can understand why. When I read his writing, it is clear that the effect is intended to talk about serious things, not weighty things, but with a light touch. He makes his point by putting on the coat and hat of someone and wearing it in a way that points out how ridiculous it is, after all.

For example, our age has been obsessed with sex for, well, the obsession sort of defines our age, right? Thurber's first published work was with E. B. White on "Is Sex Necessary?" and basically mocks the discussions of sex by supposedly serious analysts. He refers to the problems between men a women as a product of pedastalism and that there were diversions created by women and men to distract them from their desire to get together. Men developed hobbies and became devoted to sports, and women distracted men by making fudge. There are also early Thurber drawings that became such an effective part of his work and his fame.

This collection was put together by a very appropriate editor, Garrison Keillor. He has a wonderful ear for the kind of thing Thurber was after and has selected well. Most of the book contains selections, but there are four complete works. And there is a rich sampling of Thurbers drawings. We get examples of Thurber's writing over the 1920s through the 1950s. The collection has a great sampling of his writing about the struggles between men and women, which was a wonderful topic for the times in which he wrote. But we also get his wonderful fables for our time and the popular writings he wrote for children. However, unlike the jelly filled sweet pastries our time provides for children, these have more pain and harshness. While they are not fairy tales such as the brothers Grimm, they do have similar bite.

If you don't know James Thurber, you owe it to yourself to get to know his writing. First of all, it is fun to read and the cartoons a style unique to him. Second, while he is not as famous now as he was, his work remains strong and an important contribution to American letters. This is a fine collection and very much worth having.

The Chronology of Thurber's life and the notes about sources and texts also make a solid contribution to our enjoyment of the text and help us understand some of the names and events that were quite topical at the time the piece was published, but have faded into the mists of time since then.

Enjoy!

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great author, great series, August 10, 2010
By 
eupraxis "eupraxis" (New Orleans, LA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) (Hardcover)
I have to thank Keith Olbermann for his Friday readings of Thurber on his Countdown program. He got me hooked.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could Be More Thurber Than You Had In Mind!, August 21, 2013
This review is from: James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) (Hardcover)
In person, James Thurber (1894-1961) was somewhat dour man, given to bouts of serious depression and plagued by increasingly poor eyesight that ultimately verged on blindness. On paper, however, he was extremely funny, and in the 1920s he began producing a series of short stories, essays, fables, and cartoons that were popular in magazines recognized for witty humor. He produced numerous collections during his lifetime, and he was and still is heavily anthologized, with "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" likely his best known work. Edited by Garrison Keillor, JAMES THURBER: WRITINGS AND DRAWINGS undertakes the daunting task of collecting his best works, which in this text run to just short of one thousand pages.

The text includes items from IS SEX NECESSARY?; THE OWL IN THE ATTIC; THE MIDDLE-AGED MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE; LET YOUR MIND ALONE!; FABLES FOR OUR TIME & FAMOUS POEMS ILLUSTRATED; MY WORLD--AND WELCOME TO IT; MEN, WOMEN AND DOGS; THE THURBER CARNIVAL; THE THURBER ALBUM; THURBER COUNTRY; THURBER'S DOGS; FURTHER FABLES FOR OUR TIME; ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS; and THE YEARS WITH ROSS. It also includes the entire text of THE SEAL IN THE BEDROOM; MY LIFE AND HARD TIMES; THE LAST FLOWER; and THE 13 CLOCKS. Even a first glance will be enough to keep a Thurber fan busy for days. But therein lies the rub: a Thurber fan. For humor is a notoriously topical thing, and what is hilarious today is mildly amusing tomorrow and inscrutable next week. Thurber has dated better than Robert Benchley, but not so well as Dorothy Parker.

At his best--and there's a lot of "best" in this collection--Thurber is laugh-out-loud funny. Early, pseudo-biographical pieces from MY LIFE AND HARD TIMES (such as "The Night The Bed Fell," "The Car We Had To Push," and "The Day the Damn Broke") are quaintly amusing and amazing evocative of place and time. Later pieces, including the notorious "The Macbeth Murder Mystery" and "A Couple of Hamburgers," "The Catbird Seat," and "A Final Note on Chandra Bell" are wickedly funny, and I absolutely defy anyone to read "The Little Girl and the Wolf" and "The Unicorn in the Garden" without rushing to read them aloud to someone else. They really are that good. But there's also a lot here that reminds me of that college professor you had, the one who thought he was funny but never was. The same is true of Thurber's cartoons, some of which will cause you to convulse with laughter. The cartoons from MEN, WOMEN AND DOGS are particularly memorable with their strange, shapeless characters coupled with unexpected captions. On the other hand, the once-celebrated THE LAST FLOWER seems somewhat passe nowdays, an statement that has been made too often to compell interest.

This is certainly the collection I'd want to have on my shelf--but as I indicated, I'm already a Thurber fan. For the rest of the world, it seems to me that Keillor might have done a little more editing than he did. Recommended just the same.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Old Thurber!, June 8, 2010
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This review is from: James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) (Hardcover)
Garrison Keillor has done a fine job of collecting some of the best Thurber pieces in one book. When I was in high school, Thurber was one of the New Yorker writer gang whose work convinced me that it would a good idea for me to leave an Iowa farm and experience what was going on in the outside world. I did.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Compendium, September 22, 2010
By 
Susan H. Cook (Tecumseh, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) (Hardcover)
I have several older volumes of Thurber's writings but when Keith Olbermann began reading Thurber on Fridays I noticed he had this book in hand. That was what prompted me to order it, and it is a welcome addition to my library.
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James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America)
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