Thurber, James

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Thurber, James

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).

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