The Thurber Carnival
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The Thurber Carnival

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4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  2,014 ratings  ·  118 reviews
James Thurber was one of the finest humorists of the twentieth century (and a crack cartoonist to boot). A bestseller upon its initial publication in 1945, The Thurber Carnival captures the depth of his talent and the breadth of his wit. The stories compiled here, almost all of which first appeared in The New Yorker, are from his uproarious and candid collection My World a...more
Paperback, 425 pages
Published November 19th 2013 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1945)
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Best Humorous Books
215th out of 2,453 books — 4,752 voters
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Retro Reads
22nd out of 148 books — 96 voters


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notgettingenough
The Macbeth Murder Mystery is just the funniest thing ever written. Read on.


"It was a stupid mistake to make," said the American woman I had met at my hotel in the English lake country, "but it was on the counter with the other Penguin books--the little sixpenny ones, you know, with the paper covers--and I supposed of course it was a detective story. All the others were detective stories. I'd read all the others, so I bought this one without really looking at it carefully. You can imagine how ma...more
Erik Graff
Aug 04, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gene Shepherd fans
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff
Shelves: literature
Dad was a great fan of James Thurber, having several of his books on the shelves as far back as memory serves and purchasing others as they came out. This was, if not the first, one of the first of the Thurber collections I ever read, Thurber being recommended not only by Dad's taste but by the occasional reading of some of his stories on WFMT radio's "Midnight Special".
Jim
For some reason this book seems to multiply in my house like rabbits. I have 4 copies if you count the one that the dog chewed.

I think this was a best seller in the 40s and all of the classic Thurber is here, "Walter Mitty", "Catbird Seat", and the drawings. Like all great writers Thurber creates a world of his own that is a privilege to visit.

The only dated sections are those devoted to making fun of black dialect. In the age of "Amos and Andy" calling holiday wreaths "holiday reeves", may hav...more
Valerie
I once read a comment in which a man said he had no doubt Superman could fly or do all the other stuff, but 'Who ever heard of a mild-mannered reporter?" When I proposed the question to my mother she suggested 'James Thurber'?

Thurber's stories of word games, life on the New Yorker staff, his adventures with nearsightedness, etc always charmed me, and some of the cartoons (Such as: 'For the last time, you and your horsie get away from me.') have stuck with me, though I often forget which collect...more
Garrett Zecker
What is interesting about my approach to this book is that I really had nothing interesting to say about James Thurber prior to reading it. As an avid subscriber and historian of the New Yorker magazine, I was familiar with some of his cartoons and his short nonfiction pieces, but I had never really decided to sit down and read this volume until I bought it (as I think I remember) at a library clearance sale. It was a hilarious examination of life and the human experience, and a real definitive...more
Feliks
"...I demand satisfaction!"
"--and you shall have it!" he cried.

lol lol lol

I still use this gag on prank phone calls myself, from time to time.

One of the simplest, yet most penetrating analyses of American life which is as true now as it was then. The American people's stupidity, pomposity, and ego are a constant from age to age.

"...supply of lightbulbs which--he confessed it was his pleasure--to hurl against a brick wall..."

Never laugh off the threat of an irate man when you are bathing in his p...more
Elisha Condie
Ah, I LOVE this book. In my Christmas-can't-concentrate-on-anything mindset I've been reading familiar favorites, including this. Thurber's stories completely totally kill me - I've literally laughed out loud while reading. "The Night the Bed Fell" is a classic, and I do love the stories about the day the damn broke, and the string of maids his family had.

Thurber's stories are just short little pieces about his life, but they are so funny. And he illustrates them himeslf, badly, but they are so...more
Ben Thurley
Laugh-out-loud funny anthology of essays, stories, reminiscences, fables, poems and cartoons of the estimable journalist, essayist and humorist, James Thurber. The collection takes in works from roughly 1930 until 1945, when it was published.

Thurber was regularly, and justly, compared to Mark Twain and is certainly one of the funniest writers I have ever read. There are passages here that still regularly send me into spasms and I am unable to stop myself laughing, regardless of the propriety and...more
Monica!
Guys, I love this book. It's fantastically hysterical.

(Most of the time, at least. It's not quite so fantastically hysterical when you're attempting to act it out as part of a high school drama performance, as my classmates and I unfortunately discovered. Clearly Thurber was not aiming to entertain the fourteen-year-old crowd....)
David Fulmer
This anthology draws on James Thurber’s voluminous output, much of which originally appeared in the New Yorker, presenting his finest short stories, biographical memoirs, fables and cartoons. No piece is longer than ten pages and highlights include nostalgic reminiscences from his youth and young adulthood in Columbus, Ohio. Doc Marlowe is a portrait of an itinerant con man who was as capable of swindling his neighbors as he was of helping them graciously and the piece is full of turn-of-the-cen...more
Nyleen
Sedaris wishes he were this funny.
Dezra
I went to Barnes and Nobles and asked the young gal there where I could find the Thurber collection. She gave me a blank look. "James Thurber," I said, hoping that would mean something. She continued to stare at me puzzled. She had to look him up and then directed me to the humor section, which makes sense (I thought he'd be in the classics....)

At first I hrmphed about the younger generation not knowing the older classics. But as I read, I began to understand. James Thurber wrote about his time,...more
Ruth
369 pages. Donated 2010 May.

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 Trapez...more
Michael Kraft
There's not often that I associate a book with a key point in my life. But this is one of them.

Right after graduating from college, and not quite sure about my next steps in life, I spent a summer with family friends who operated a beef ranch in the southern tier of New York State, over an hour west of Corning. The friends were just making ends meet. Though they had a lot of land, and a lot of beef cattle, their house was small and dilapidated. I worked on the farm each day. The evenings were si...more
Mark Freckleton
I have to confess, although I am currently reading this, I have read it multiple times before - the first time in high school, I believe. James Thurber is without a doubt one of the great American humorists. He constructs a world all of his own, and pulls you into it. Although some of the situations are dated - train travel, dinner jackets, servants, the husband spending the night at the club after a spousal spat - the people we meet up with are still among us, and their interactions are perfect...more
Abby
May 17, 2013 Abby added it
I went to Mr. Thurber's house in Columbus, Ohio before I realized he was the author of one of my favorite sentences of all time: "I'll skwuck your thrug 'til all you can whipple is geep!" (The Wonderful O). He is so middle of the road, so absent-minded and yet so observant, that I was looking forward to reading him.

But there is something about Thurber's brand of humor that goes south very quickly. It's like biting into a delicious deli sandwich and realizing you forgot to take the toothpick out....more
Jacob
Columbus represent! And now that that's out of the way, it's ridiculous how good this collection is. It is something of a Thurber's greatest hits, but the fact that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is one of the less impressive titles should give you an idea as to its quality. Thurber's affective range is also quite impressive in that one story will have you chortling while the next finds you sniffling (because the book gave you a cold, and that makes you sad). This book also collects some of Thu...more
Nami
After having decided to skip the fictive short stories, I enjoyed the rest enormously (I can't read 'More Alarms At Night' enough. it is fantastically hilarious to me!). Then, I also really enjoyed the excerpts from "The Owl in the Attic." They are hysterical.

-----

I am enjoying the essays about his life tremendously. I have less patience with the fictional ones (though they have some funny moments, too) because the women are vacuous, the black stereotypes awful, and the tone, vaguely misogynisti...more
Brenda
I remember a series from the seventies called "My World and Welcome To It" based on the writing of James Thurber. It was hilarious (at least I remember my 11 year old self thinking it was.) So I thought I'd really enjoy this book which had short stories from several of his books including My World, etc. etc. And a lot of it was wonderful, a short story called The Owl Who was God, could have been an analogy of todays political climate, very clever. But, being published in the forties, many of the...more
Adam
I've already gushed about Thurber in my reviews of "My Life and Hard Times" and "Lanterns and Lances." If you like humor, you need to check him out, and this collection is the best place to start. It includes the complete classic "autobiography" "My Life and Hard Times," in addition to some of Thurber's best-known stories. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "The Cat-Bird Seat" are both here, along with samples of Thurber's cartoons.

My personal favorite stories in the collection are "The Lady...more
Valerie Kyriosity
I finally finished! This poor book is one of several I've had on my in-progress list forever and a day. I was feeling guilty about that list the other day, and decided to do something about it. Since I had the fewest pages left in this one, I had at it. While Mr. Thurber did not consistently leave me ROFLing, he got quite a few LOLs out of me. What a quirky fellow he appears to have been, and what quirky things he wrote!

Next I'll try to get back into Here I Stand. Some precious, precious, ever s...more
Jc
I haven't read these in decades, so it was fun to sit down and re-acquaint myself with Mr. Thurber. Thurber was one of the greatest American humorists of the mid-20th century, and a long time contributor to The New Yorker. This is his self-chosen best of -- and it does contain some very special works, mostly excerpts from longer collections. His humor is definitely of the New Yorker style, often dry and literary, but if you are in the mood for it, he can still be a joy to read. If you have no pr...more
Shannon Cooley
I loved his humor. His prose is carefully worded and precise, which just adds to the humor, because he leads you exactly where he wants you. My favorites were the "Fables for Our Times" and the story about the woman who accidentally picks up "Macbeth" when she means to grab a murder mystery, and after reading it she flatly denies that the Macbeths were responsible, because, "It can't ever be the person you most suspect, you know."

This isn't one I'd want to sit and read straight through (which i...more
Amy
I laughed out loud many times while reading this sampler of all things Thurber. It reminded me of a combination of David Sedaris (if he grew up in Ohio at the beginning of the 20th century) and the Far Side. A good read!
Joann
Oh Dear, what a total delight! The stories! The Fables! The Cartoons!!

They are all here, well, almost all..., but I want more!
Kathy
I absolutely LOVE James Thurber. :) My all time favorite is "The Night the Bed Fell" I've read it over and over and it NEVER fails to make me laugh out loud. Thurber's characters seem so REAL, despite being from another time. He's like the guy at the family gathering that has everyone rolling on the floor with stories about the people there. "Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "Catbird Seat" are two of my other favorites. I always wondered if Thurber had a nagging wife because in his cartoons and...more
Sheila
Read some of the stories in this book because of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." The movie is not much like the story, but I enjoyed reading Thurber's work. His stories are humorous and witty, though dated. But he is an important figure in twentieth century humor and some put him up there with Mark Twain.
Karen
Oh, how sad I am that I gave this away! My great aunt gave me a hardcover copy of this book many, many years ago. In college, for some reason, I decided it was clutter on my shelf. No! Wrong! Oh well.

I was drawn in by Thurber's fables--they had just really fantastic morals like "Never give a pistol to a nervous female" and "Early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy and wealthy and dead." I'd never read anything like them before!

Then I started in on Thurber's short stories. Laughed out l...more
Miriam
This book was funny, like you smile when you read it--but that's it. I think my favorite part is the general theme of "Oh, those wacky colored people. They're so quaint in their way of speaking. Also, the help are so funny. Life is so trying as a member of the upper class, Muffy." But I think it all stems fundamentally from just the one double standard: he understands himself and his own mind (and knows he's a total weirdo), but everyone else is incomprehensible--friends, family, acquaintances,...more
Rachel C.
Allie and I often lament that somewhere along the way we lost the no-holds-barred, gravity-defying imaginations we had as kids. James Thurber is one of those rare - and incredibly lucky - people who never lost his. "The Thurber Carnival" is simply sublime. With such ebullient gems as "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", "The Unicorn in the Garden", "The Catbird Seat" and that little cartoon with the basset hound following an insect, you'd be a Scrooge indeed if this collection did not warm your he...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Alternate book cover 3 15 Aug 02, 2014 05:56AM  
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Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio to Charles L. Thurber and Mary Agnes (Mame) Fisher Thurber. Both of his parents greatly influenced his work. His father, a sporadically employed clerk and minor politician who dreamed of being a lawyer or an actor, is said to have been the inspiration for the small, timid protagonist typical of many of his stories. Thurber described his mother as a "born comedien...more
More about James Thurber...
Many Moons The Secret Life of Walter Mitty The 13 Clocks My Life and Hard Times The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Other Pieces

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“Let me be the first to admit that the naked truth about me is to the naked truth about Salvador Dali as an old ukulele in the attic is to a piano in a tree, and I mean a piano with breasts. Senor Dali has the jump on me from the beginning. He remembers and describes in detail what it was like in the womb. My own earliest memory is of accompanying my father to a polling booth in Columbus, Ohio, where he voted for William McKinley.” 12 likes
“Well, I'm disenchanted, too. We're all disenchanted.” 7 likes
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