James Thurber

James Thurber, 1894–1961, American humorist, b. Columbus, Ohio, studied at Ohio State Univ. After working on various newspapers he served on the staff of the New Yorker from 1927 to 1933 and was later a principal contributor to the magazine, considerably influencing its tone through his various drawings, stories, and anecdotes of his misadventures. Beneath the vague outlines of Thurber's cartoons and the wistful and ironic improbabilities of his writings—often dealing with incidents and characters from his Midwestern childhood or with the vexed relationship between the sexes—there is a deep psychological insight that sets him apart from most 20th-century humorists.

With E. B. White he wrote and illustrated Is Sex Necessary? (1929), a satire of books on popular psychoanalysis. The Male Animal (1940), a play he wrote with Elliott Nugent, satirizes collegiate life. Collections of his drawings and writings include The Owl in the Attic (1931), The Seal in the Bedroom (1932), My Life and Hard Times (1933), Fables for Our Time (1940), The Thurber Carnival (1945), Thurber Country (1953), Thurber's Dogs (1955), The Wonderful O (1957), and Credos and Curios (1962). Among his other works are The Thirteen Clocks (1950), a children's book, and The Years with Ross (1959), a memoir of his days with the New Yorker. Thurber's later career was hampered by his growing blindness.

See H. Thurber and E. Weeks, ed., Selected Letters of James Thurber (1981) and H. Kinney and R. A. Thurber, ed., The Thurber Letters (2003); biographies by C. S. Holmes (1972), B. Bernstein (1975, repr. 1985), R. E. Long (1988), N. A. Grauer (1994), and H. Kinney (1995).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Remember Laughter: A Life of James Thurber
Neil A. Grauer.
University of Nebraska Press, 1994
His Secret Life
Buckley, F. H.
New Criterion, Vol. 22, No. 2, October 2003
Fantastic Worlds: Myths, Tales, and Stories
Eric S. Rabkin.
Oxford University Press, 1979
Librarian’s tip: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber begins on p. 202
The Comic in Theory & Practice
John J. Enck; Elizabeth T. Forter; Alvin Whitley.
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1960
Librarian’s tip: "The Catbird Seat" by James Thurber begins on p. 145
105 Greatest Living Authors Present the World's Best Stories, Humor, Drama, Biography, History, Essays, Poetry
Whit Burnett.
Dial Press, 1950
Librarian’s tip: "More Alarms at Night" by James Thurber begins on p. 250
America's 93 Greatest Living Authors Present This Is My Best: Over 150 Self-Chosen and Complete Masterpieces, Together with Their Reasons for Their Selections
Whit Burnett.
Dial Press, 1942
Librarian’s tip: "James Thurber: Why He Selected "'The Night the Ghost Got In'" begins on p. 872
The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story
Blanche H. Gelfant; Lawrence Graver.
Columbia University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "James Thurber (1894-1961)" begins on p. 536
The Writer Observed
Harvey Breit.
World Publishing, 1956
Librarian’s tip: "James Thurber" begins on p. 255
The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin
Brian Attebery.
Indiana University Press, 1980
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of James Thurber begins on p. 144
"Things Close In": Dissolution and Misanthropy in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."
Kaufman, Anthony.
Studies in American Fiction, Vol. 22, No. 1, Spring 1994
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Encyclopedia of the Essay
Tracy Chevalier.
Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of James Thurber begins on p. 842
Joseph Conrad and American Writers: A Bibliographical Study of Affinities, Influences, and Relations
Robert Secor; Debra Moddelmog.
Greenwood Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: "James Thurber (1894-1961)" begins on p. 211
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