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The Thurber Carnival

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  2,555 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
James Thurber is widely hailed as one of the finest humorists of this century. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Mr. Thurber belongs in the great line of American humorists which includes Mark Twain and Ring Lardner." Originally published by Harper & Brothers is 1945, The Thurber Carnival has retained a steady following for more than 50 years, featuring such bel ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published November 19th 2013 by Turtleback Books (first published 1945)
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Nandakishore Varma
I don't know how many people of the current generation know James Thurber - maybe the literary group in America, but I don't think many outside of that continent are familiar with him now. My introduction to him was fortuitous. In the late eighties, the national television channel of India Doordarshan aired a series called Mungerilal ke Haseen Sapne ("The Beautiful Dreams of Mungerilal") which I watched and loved: it was based on one of Thurber's stories, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This st ...more
Sep 29, 2009 notgettingenough rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
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
Feb 23, 2009 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  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".
Jan 30, 2016 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If he was less sexist/racist, I would really love his books. he is quite funny, occasionally.
My go-to book when I needed a laugh in my days as a humanities student.

This is my favorite story of his and the reason why I occasionally like to forget my glasses.

The Admiral on the Wheel

When the coloured maid stepped on my glasses the other morning, it was the first time they had
been broken since the late Thomas A. Edison’s seventy-ninth birthday. I remember that day well,
because I was working for a
Nov 15, 2007 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
I had mixed reactions to this book. I really enjoyed some of the stories, I thought some were just ok, and some seemed very flat to me. Among my favorites were: The Secret Life of James Thurber, The Macbeth Murder Mystery, If Grant Had been Drinking at Appomattox, and One is a Wanderer. I thought that most of the stories from the collection "The Middle-aged Man on the Flying Trapeze" were excellent, with insight and depth that went beyond simple humor. I didn't care much for the extracts from "F ...more
Garrett Zecker
Jul 30, 2011 Garrett Zecker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Czarny Pies
Sep 30, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 25, 2012 Feliks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"...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
Dec 28, 2008 Elisha Condie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 02, 2010 Nyleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
Sedaris wishes he were this funny.
Becky Hintz
Nov 10, 2016 Becky Hintz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
In reading this, I realized that humor definitely changes over time. I read all 425 pages and while there were moments of brilliance (Macbeth Murder Mystery, Walter Mitty), the vast majority was just... boring. I'm disappointed, both in the book and in my inability to enjoy it.
Oct 24, 2016 Connor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some really great stuff in here. I also read the dramatized version I found at my library. It's full of wit, longing, and daydreaming.
Ben Thurley
Jul 11, 2014 Ben Thurley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 05, 2017 Val rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: byt-main
James Thurber mainly wrote short quirky or whimsical pieces for the New Yorker, some of which were later collected and published in books; this is one such collection. It includes short stories (they are very short, rarely more than two or three pages), autobiographical musings, fables, illustrations to poems and cartoons.
A few of the short stories are very good, particularly two nostalgic ones towards the end of the fourth section which are not humorous, and a few of the pieces are less succes
Michael David
The problem with most forms of humor is that often they're both topical, and temporally situated. What was funny a few years back may nowadays become egregious. That is primarily the reason why great comic masterpieces are hard to come by.

I usually don't read comic novels or works, so I'm probably not the best person to ask. All I can say is that Thurber is a transcendent wit. His creativity and intelligence sparkle with his short stories such as 'The Catbird Seat,' 'The Macbeth Murder Mystery,
May 24, 2010 Ruth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
David Fulmer
Dec 24, 2013 David Fulmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mark Freckleton
Aug 30, 2010 Mark Freckleton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Kraft
Jul 21, 2013 Michael Kraft rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Adelaide Mcginnity
In various English classes during my school years, I had encountered two of the works contained in this book: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "The Night the Bed Fell," both of which I thought were tremendous. Having now read this book in its entirety, I can see why it was these two works that were put into the anthologies; they are the cream, and the rest of the works are of much lower average quality.

James Thurber is simply not a good writer of dramatic prose, and the more and more variat
Jun 25, 2012 Jacob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Jul 12, 2015 Alicea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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,
Aug 22, 2008 Nami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 25, 2011 Brenda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
This is a collection of essays that James Thurber wrote for the New Yorker from the thirties and forties. They each take a portion of life in general, his personal life, fictional characters based on real friends and draw zany, humorous and slightly surreal pictures out of it.

One of his more famous stories is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (nothing like the movie with Ben Stiller I'm told), which is about a hen-pecked husband who copes with the mediocrity of his life by living in a fantasy worl
Feb 27, 2010 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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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.” 14 likes
“Well, I'm disenchanted, too. We're all disenchanted.” 9 likes
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