Saturday, January 24, 2009

Featured Pipe Smoker: James Thurber

James Grover Thurber (1894-1961)

"It is better to have the ring of freedom in your ears than in your nose."

James Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio. As a child, playing with bows and arrows with his brothers, he was hit in the eye by an arrow, and became permanently blind in that eye. The sight in the remaining good eye deteriorated throughout his life.

He attended Ohio State University and was excused from the Army during World War I because of his poor eyesight, but he did serve as a code clerk in France during that time.

He became famous for his short stories and cartoons that were published in the New Yorker.

His poor eyesight contributed to his signature cartoon style, in which he drew the cartoons on very large sheets of white paper with a thick black crayon. Here is one of his most well-known cartoons.

He was also the author of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which is perhaps his most well-known story.

Personally, one of my favorite books is the slim volume of short stories he wrote called My Life and Hard Times. The first sentence of the first story in this collection is:
I suppose that the high-water mark of my youth in Columbus, Ohio was the night the bed fell on my father.
That pretty much sums up his style of understated absurdity, which I might say is my favorite kind of humor. This collection also includes another of his most popular stories, The Night the Ghost Got In.

Thurber suffered from a thyroid condition later in life, and died at age 66 in New York City, due to complications from the removal of a brain tumor.

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