James Thurber (1894–1961)
From James Thurber: Writings & Drawings
Thurber’s creation Jack (“Pal”) Smurch has become shorthand for a hero, politician, or celebrity who, in person, turns out to be a lout. Everyone who knows him knows what he’s really like, but everyone is reluctant to say anything about it.
“The Greatest Man in the World,” which features Pal Smurch, was one of Thurber’s early stories for The New Yorker, written both as a satire of the American propensity for hero worship and as a parody of a “What If” series that had been appearing in another magazine (e.g., “If Napoleon Had Escaped to America”). It is our Story of the Week selection, and you can read it in full.
Read “The Greatest Man in the World” by James Thurber
Image, above: One of James Thurber’s illustrations for “The Greatest Man in the World” when the story was reprinted in his collection The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935). © 1935 James Thurber. Image reproduced from James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (LOA, 1996) by arrangement with Rosemary A. Thurber c/o The Barbara Hogenson Agency.