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Thurber Carnival [Paperback]

James Thurber
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 26 1999

James Thurber's unique ability to convey the vagaries of life in a funny, witty, and often satirical way earned him accolades as one of the finest humorists of the twentieth century. A bestseller upon its initial publication in 1945. The Thurber Carnivalcaptures the depth and breadth of his talent. The pieces here, almost all of which first appeared in The New Yorker, include selections from such beloved classics as My World and Welcome to It,The Owl in the Attic, The Seal in the Bathroom, and Men, Women and Dogs. Thurber's take on life, society, and human nature is timeless and will continue to delight readers even as they recognize a bit of themselves in his brilliant sketches.


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After the chuckles and amidst the chortles, the first-time reader of The Thurber Carnival is bound to utter a discreetly voiced "Huh?" Like Cracker Jacks, there are surprises inside James Thurber's delicious 1945 smorgasbord of essays, stories, and sketches. This festival is, surprises and all, a collection of earlier collections (mostly), including, among others, gems from My World--and Welcome to It, Let Your Mind Alone!, and The Middle Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze. Needless to say, there are also numerous cartoons that, by themselves, are worth the price of admission. While redoubling Thurber's deserved reputation as a laugh-out-loud humorist and teller-of-gentle-tales, it reintroduces him as a thinker-of-thoughts. To wit: his 1933 "Preface to a Life," in which he observes himself while discussing "writers of light pieces running from a thousand to two thousand words":
To call such persons "humorists," a loose-fitting and ugly word, is to miss the nature of their dilemma and the dilemma of their nature. The little wheels of their invention are set in motion by the damp hand of melancholy.
Enjoy the surprises, certainly, but revel in the candy-coated popcorn and peanuts. As in "More Alarms at Night," in which a teenaged Thurber intrudes upon his sleeping father, a skittish man named Charles, because he can't recall the name Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Coincidentally, his father has just been frightened half to death by Thurber's brother, who had earlier stalked into his room saying coldly, "Buck, your time has come."
"Listen," I said. "Name some towns in New Jersey quick!" It must have been around three in the morning. Father got up, keeping the bed between him and me, and started to pull his trousers on. "Don't bother about dressing," I said. "Just name some towns in New Jersey." While he hastily pulled on his clothes--I remember he left his socks off and put his shoes on his bare feet--father began to name, in a shaky voice, various New Jersey cities. I can still see him reaching for his coat without taking his eyes off me. "Newark," he said, "Jersey City, Atlantic City, Elizabeth, Paterson, Passaic, Trenton, Jersey City, Trenton, Paterson--" "It has two names," I snapped. "Elizabeth and Paterson," he said.
Of course, things turn out fine, as well they should. And why not? The best of Thurber, which The Thurber Carnival arguably is, is sublime; surprising insight and wry observations tossed lightly and served constantly with effortless good humor and an obvious love for all things gently eccentric. --Michael Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"It is time that we stopped thinking about James Thurber as a mere funny man for sophisticates and recognized him as an authentic American genius. And the Carnival, by offering the cream of his work in a handy and attractive volume indicates impressively the scope of his gifts. . . . Mr. Thurber belongs in the great line of American humorists which includes Mark Twain and Ring Lardner. " -- Philadelphia Inquirer

"One of the absolutely essential books of our time." -- Saturday Review of Literature

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The train was twenty minutes late we found out when we bought our tickets, so we sat down on a bench in the little waiting room of the Cornwall Bridge station. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Artistic Humorist Oct. 31 2002
Format:Paperback
THE THURBER CARNIVAL is an excellent collection if only because it contains the complete MY LIFE AND HARD TIMES. In the early seventies, when my grandmother gave me a respectful and wonderfully brief biography called THE CLOCKS OF COLUMBUS, I became a THURBER fan. I was in Junior High and Thurber, dead more than ten years already, was enjoying something of a vogue. Most of his books were back in print. Today, we're down to about a third or less of what he wrote. The Library of America's collection looks fairly complete, but THE THURBER CARNIVAL was his own selection of greatest hits, if you will. In both cases I miss the separate volumes from which these stories and cartoons are culled. If there are concept albums, Thurber had concept collections. You don't get the sense of a Beatles album listening to bits from different albums. This is true with Thurber. You need all of LET YOUR MIND ALONE, which you can only get used now. You need all of THE MIDDLE-AGED MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE; his most representative collection.
He tried writing a novel once or twice, but found he could only write short stories. This bothered him. The chief thing to remember as you read him is that he was deeply ashamed of being a humorist. His literary hero was Henry James. During Thurber's time at the New Yorker (and he arrived there about a year after its founding, staying until his death more than three decades later) the magazine was a showcase for humorists. Think of the original cast of Saturday Night Live and you'll have something of an idea of the atmosphere at the magazine in its first ten years or so. Competitive humorists travelled from all over the United States to work for THE NEW YORKER. The Algonquin Roundtable was largely a haven for NEW YORKER staffers. James Thurber learned from E. B.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thurber's humour belongs in a category of its own Jan. 24 2002
Format:Hardcover
This compendium will give a thoroughly entertaining taste of one of the twentieth century's greatest humourists. Thurber's imagination and wit have an appeal all their own.
This anthology brings together a number of his short stories as well as selections from amongst his modern fables and cartoons. 'What Do You Mean, It Was Brillig?' and 'The Night the Bed Fell' are two excellent and hilarious tales that serve well as an introduction to Thurber's surreal world. Don't read these in public unless you are prepared to draw attention to yourself - they will have you laughing out loud. In his fables, modelled after Aesop, but with a twentieth-century bent, Thurber delights in catching the reader unaware with his own particular brand of irony.
The cartoons are ingenious. Sometimes you will read a cartoon in a newspaper and it will make you laugh. Go back to it again and it no longer has the same effect. Thurber's cartoons, on the other hand, are so utterly inspired (I do not exaggerate), that they will improve upon a second and third look. You will discover subtle nuances you didn't perceive before. His funniest offerings draw on the theme of marriage, and frequently involve the chasm between a husband and wife trapped in a marriage out of which the love and romance has long since disappeared. You will be left baffled as to where exactly Thurber came across such a natural talent for finding (and exploiting) the absurd in everything.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I can't stop reading it... Dec 23 2001
Format:Paperback
James Thurber is undoubtably one of America's greatest writers ever. "The Thurber Carnival" is an brilliant collection of his works.
I was introduced to Thurber's works two years ago,by a short story of his that was included in my English textbook. I was instantly charmed by his writing. Ever since, I have read everything of Thurber's that I can get my hands on. Through my readings, I have discovered several key things:
1. James Thurber was NOT just a humorist/satirist. Of course, I have stayed up late reading his stories laughing out loud, yet there is more to the stories. Thurber not only chronicled people of his time, but people of all times. His works show that the little eccentricities most people possess are the very things that make them interesting. Take this excerpt from the story "Recollections of the Gas Buggy", included in "The Thurber Carnival":
'Years ago, an aunt of my father's came to visit us one winter in Columbus, Ohio. She enjoyed the hallucination, among others, that she was able to drive a car. I was riding with her one December day when I discovered, to my horror, that she thought the red and green lights on the traffic signals had been put up by the municipality as a gay and expansive manifestation of the Yuletide spirit. Although we finally reached home safely, I never completely recovered from the adventure, and could not be induced, after that day, to ride in a car on holidays.'
2. That excerpt brings me to my next discovery: James Thurber had quite a way with words, which to my knowledge, no author since has been able to near. Thurber's words transport you to another world, an amazing world, where everyone even slightly insane is portrayed with kindly satire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Humorist for His Time--And Ours Nov. 24 2001
Format:Hardcover
I grew up with this book. First published in the mid-40s, it lived in the center of a built-in bookcase over my father's desk in the family room, and I was drawn to it time and time again during my childhood.
At first, I was convulsed by Thurber's uniquely hilarious cartoons. His dogs and his women are priceless...drawn in a style that nobody has ever been able to duplicate or capture.
It was only later, as I grew older, that I could appreciate Thurber's written humor. The "Thurber Carnival" (and it is) is a compilation of essays and excerpts from "My World--and Welcome to It," "The Middle Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze," and others. These were Thurber's earlier works that were very much a product of their times, but oh, so funny! Thurber was one of the great commentators on the vagaries of everyday life. Along with Robert Benchly et al., he set the tone for an entire generation. I still have this book, and I absolutely cherish it. It's hard to do Thurber justice in a review. All I can say is--buy this book and wallow in it. You'll be glad you did.
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