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The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber

The Thurber Carnival (1945)

by James Thurber

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Recently added bylaurie, grownsync, Mary-CC, brianrp, bbledsoe, private library, JamesMScott, PHall37
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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Plucked a 1949 edition from my public library shelves. Plain-spoken humor, and pleasantly endearing these many years later. Most of the pieces are what I'd call vignettes, many are fiction but several appear to be true stories of his life. Reminds me somewhat of E.B. White, which is not surprising as they were contemporaries. Thurber grew up in small- town Ohio (Columbus wasn't so big in the early 1900s), is a keen observer and natural storyteller. Of course, his drawings are included in this eponymous sort-of collection. ( )
  JamesMScott | May 9, 2015 |
A large miscellaneous collection of Thurber's writings and drawings. On the whiole I prefer the drawings. When young my favorite was the series "War Between Men and Women" though nowadays it would probably be considered sexist, since the men win. ( )
  antiquary | Nov 12, 2013 |
We read Walter Mitty in class in school, and I was so entertained I went to the library to find this collection of his work. My favourite is the Macbeth Murder Mystery. ( )
  mlfhlibrarian | Sep 25, 2013 |
The Thurber carnival is another short story collection of timeless pieces by James Thurber. It is a parade of deviance. In each story one of the characters is either eccentric, weird or totally nuts. However, in each case there is sufficient suspense to let the reader gradually discover where the screw is loose.

In "The secret life of Walter Mitty" a war veteran "has not come home" so to speak. He sees the enemy hidden behind every tree, while out shopping with his wife. It is a classic story, with an almost endearing touch. "The catbird seat" tells the story of envy and backstabbing in the office, and how to get rid of troublesome colleagues. A very humourous, and cruel story. "In "The MacBeth murder mystery" a reader get Shakespeare all wrong, or all right, depending on your perspective.

Most stories are rather short, the volume as a whole being just over 60 pages. The stories are highly original, and hardly dated, so they can be enjoyed by contemporary readers. Great stuff. ( )
  edwinbcn | May 20, 2013 |
This is a collection of lighthearted stories and essays by James Thurber. I picked it up after getting hooked on the former Keith Olberman segment "Fridays With Thurber". The stories are good, but I enjoyed it less than I hoped for two reasons. The first is that these shine brightest when read aloud and theatrically as Olberman performs them. Sadly, I do most of my reading on my own and am far to lazy to read aloud to myself. The second reason was unexpected. I've read a decent amount of fiction in the last year and a half that was at least 50 years old. For the most part it was fairly predictable which I found unbearably dated (The Turn of the Screw) and surprising how many felt almost contemporary (Tropic of Cancer). This collection had a way of sticking in my craw when I just wanted to be entertained. I mean, this was supposed to be my spoonful of sugar to help Gulag go down.

The thing is Thurber dates his writing. While his primary concern is humor he draws a healthy dollop of his humor from conflict between a changing world and unchanging people. And even when he isn't specifically highlighting things contemporary to his writing he very much sets a scene in the time. Cars are cranked, Freud is cutting edge, grandfather spends half his time thinking the Civil War is still on. All that is fine, it's the casual sexism and racism that got me. I'm talking about the sort of prejudice that doesn't come from malice, but from casually steeping in a world where it's just a fact that women like baubles and can't possibly understand their husbands and "colored" people invariably speak in a manner both quaint and confounding. Without ever meaning to get into racial or gender politics Thurber draws a line between men and women, black and white. And while he probably didn't even know he was doing it he outlines a world where men and women, blacks and whites are classed and divided by the perceived inability of the female and the black to engage the white male.

Certainly Thurber is not setting up the white male as a heroic figure. Thurber is quick to make light of human weakness. And yet, too often there seems to be a beastly woman in the background bringing the worst out of the man. I tried to enjoy it as much as much as possible, but I kept remembering that saying that when you don't notice the bigotry, that's because it coincides with your own bigotry. So here it is in a nutshell. I can handle reading a lot of awful things. But what bothered me about this was the awful things were clearly not a blip in Thurber's mind. They were just things. That ignorance of and indifference to how he wrote an impassable wall between the sexes and races pissed me off. ( )
1 vote fundevogel | May 1, 2013 |
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Thurber, Jamesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bruning, FransTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I have not actually known Thurber for fifty years, since he was only forty-nine on his last birthday, but the publishers of this volume felt "fifty" would sound more effective than "forty-nine" in the title of an introduction to so large a book, a point which I was too tired to argue about.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060932872, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:44 -0400)

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A collection of essays and illustrations by the American humorist, including "The Seal in the Bedroom" and "My Life and Hard Times"

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