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James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America) Hardcover – October 1, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The shy Midwesterner James Thurber became a famed cartoonist and humor writer almost, it seems, by accident: Thurber in person was often depressed and self-conscious, darker strains that emerge fitfully in his sly, absurdist work. Garrison Keillor, a sunnier brand of Midwestern humorist, has assembled four longer works with many of Thurber's drawings and short pieces for the Library of America edition of Thurber's selected works. Many of these cartoons and writings are now classics, and Thurber's edgy, modernist humor--not to mention his usually bewildered protagonists--has influenced many of the best cartoonists today.

From Library Journal

This work represents each decade of Thurber's writing career, from the slight New Yorker sketches of the 1920s to the irreverently affectionate portrait of that magazine's founder, The Years with Ross, of the late 1950s. Keillor's selection of Thurber's oeuvre is both the most generous and the most judicious volume available. Known largely for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1939), which dramatizes the battle of the sexes and the male animal's ineptitude in the face of modern technology, Thurber was an Algonquin stylist with a wide range of talents. These talents are effectively displayed here in the self-deprecating reminiscences of his eccentric Columbus, Ohio, family; beast fables with a cutting edge; and almost 500 inimitable line drawings. A valuable work; highly recommended for all libraries.?Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Library of America (Book 90)
  • Hardcover: 1004 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883011221
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883011222
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 23, 2005
Format: 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.
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Format: 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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By A Customer on April 18, 1997
Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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