Writings and Drawings
"This hefty collection of Thurber could not have been better done. . . . Reputations fade so quickly these days that even the fame of a comic genius such as Thurber needs to be dusted off and reintroduced to each succeeding generation. We could not have asked for a better job of it than this splendid volume."
—Detroit Sunday Journal
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James Thurber was the unique, unpredictable wild card of American humorists, at once whimsical fantasist and deadpan chronicler of everyday absurdities. The comic persona he invented, a modern citydweller whose zaniest flights of free association are tinged with anxiety, is as hilarious now as when he first appeared in the pages of The New Yorker — and his troubled side is even more striking. Here, The Library of America presents the best and most extensive Thurber collection ever assembled.
Only a book of this scope can do justice to Thurber's extraordinary career and to the many unexpected turns of his comic genius. Here are the acknowledged masterpieces: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," "The Catbird Seat," the anti-war parable The Last Flower, the brilliantly satirical Fables for Our Time, the children's classic The 13 Clocks, and My Life and Hard Times, which Russell Baker calls "possibly the shortest and most elegant autobiography ever written." Here too are the best pieces from The Owl in the Attic, Let Your Mind Alone!, My World — And Welcome To It, and The Beast in Me and Other Animals. From his other famous collections are included such favorites as "The Pet Department," "The Black Magic of Barney Haller," "Nine Needles,' "the Macbeth Murder Mystery," and "File and Forget," revealing an astonishingly diverse mix of literary parodies, eccentric portraits, stories of domestic warfare and inner terror, reminiscences both tender and farcical, extravagant feats of wordplay, freewheeling burlesques of popular culture (from detective novels to self-help fads), and exasperated protests against the mechanized impersonality of the modern world.
Thurber's wonderful drawings — spontaneous creations of which he once said, "I don't think any drawing ever took me more than three minutes" — are here in profusion, with their population of husbands, wives, dogs, seals, and various species of Thurber's own invention. His first great cartoon collection, The Seal in the Bedroom, is presented complete, along with such celebrated sequences like "The Masculine Approach" and "The War Between Men and Women," and his devastatingly straightforward illustrated versions of once-canonical poems such as "Barbara Frietchie" and "Excelsior."
Rounding out this volume is a selection from The Years with Ross, his memoir of New Yorker publisher Harold Ross, and a number of pieces, previously uncollected by Thurber, including some early work never before reprinted.
Garrison Keillor, volume editor, is the creator and host of A Prairie Home Companion for American Public Media, and the author of several books, including Lake Wobegon Days, The Book of Guys, and Daddy's Girl.
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