James Thurber: His Life and Times by Harrison Kinney
The good news is that today, more than three decades after his death, at least a couple of James Thurber’s books can be found in the humor sections of bookstores. The bad news is that they are likely to be squeezed in among such edifying tides as The Newt Gingrich Quiz Book and shelves of cartoon books about cats and lawyers. The contemporary scene, it appears, simply does not lend itself to literary humor that aims as much for artfulness as to inspire laughter.
For a time, unlike our own, when popular culture intersected to some degree with aesthetic values, one can, faute de mieux, look back nostalgically to the 1920′s and 30′s, and to that era’s most prestigious organ of semi-mass appeal: the New Yorker under the stewardship of its founding father, Harold Ross. Of all the figures associated with the early years of the magazine—E.B. White, John O’Hara, AJ. Liebling, S.J. Perelman, Dorothy Parker, Charles Addams, and Wolcott Gibbs, to name a few—none has stood up like Thurber.
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