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The Thurber Carnival

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  2,308 ratings  ·  133 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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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsGood Omens by Terry PratchettLamb by Christopher MooreThe Princess Bride by William GoldmanMe Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Best Humorous Books
211th out of 3,016 books — 5,915 voters
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Retro Reads
23rd out of 147 books — 106 voters

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Community Reviews

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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
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".
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
Czarny Pies
Oct 03, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who believe that no further progress was needed in America after Prohibition was Abolished.
This is an excellent collection of the most popular American cartoonist of the first half of the twentieth century. It contains many of his highly quirky cartoons and most of his major successes including:

The secret life of Walter Mitty
The Catbird Seat
If Grant had been Drinking at Appomatox
The Two Hamburgers
All right have it your war - You heard a seal bark

Thurber portrays the good old days when the mere possession of a university degree guaranteed one a comfortable middle class existence. It wa
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
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
"...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.

" 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
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
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
I find it difficult to categorize the genre which will fully describe The Thurber Carnival. It is humor with a generous helping of autobiography sprinkled with cartoons. There's short stories such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which I mentioned previously. There are also twists on fairytales (of which you know I'm overly fond). It was obvious from the preface that this was going to be an interesting read because Thurber wrote the preface himself in the third person. O_O A contemporary of E. ...more
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
Brian Page
Even taking into account that these stories were all written before 1944, they are surprisingly misogynistic and racially prejudiced. There are a few gems, of course, but overall this book has served to take the sheen off of Thurber as far as I'm concerned. I don't understand how Thurber is lionized when a writer such as Ernie Pyle is practically an unknown. I was expecting Thurber to be a writer of the same calibre as E. B. White and what I found instead was a hack with one great story and a ha ...more
Sedaris wishes he were this funny.
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Eclectic, often warped. Always brief.
Irony and humor (often black humor) are the twin pillars of the James Thurber pieces in this collection.
The section of 'Fables For Our Time' wins with gems like these-

Early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead.

It's not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be...

You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.

Probably not a book I would've picked up on my own, but definitely glad it came my way.

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
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!
Some of the stories in here that were "previously unpublished" should have remained unpublished, but there are several gems.
Catherine Moorehead
As amusing and diverse a view on the mid- twentieth century war between the sexes as you're likely to find. Transcendent.
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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...
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Many Moons 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.” 13 likes
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