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The Catbird Seat

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  296 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Short story first published in The New Yorker, Nov. 14, 1942.

Mr. Martin, a man of exemplary habits, planned to murder Mrs. Barrows, the special adviser to the president of his firm. The woman had disrupted the system; caused people to be fired, and generally gotten the place into a state of confusion. His carefully laid plan to murder her didn't work out, but b
Paperback, Tale Blazers, 32 pages
Published September 1982 by Perfection Learning (first published November 14th 1942)
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Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
That was a funny ending. Didn't see it coming.
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting little short story - I got lulled into thinking I knew what was going to happen and I didn't. Good one.
Mar 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Bettie by: As The Curmudgeon Grumbles
Michael Motta
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Krisette Spangler
Aug 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
This was a great short story. I highly recommend it.
This was a fun short story. I thought it was going one way and it twisted into a brilliant ending. Very well done.
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-more-2013
This was an incredibly clever and delightful story. I loved the little twist of things at the end.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great colloquialisms.
Kristin Eoff
May 17, 2019 rated it liked it
This short story was entertaining and suspenseful, with a surprise twist toward the end that leads to what many might feel is an unexpected but satisfying conclusion. But one can also take the alternate perspective that Mr. Martin is a diabolical criminal, sane on the surface yet pathologically evil to a woman who was sincerely being nice to him and just trying to do her job. I actually felt sorry for Ms. Barrows, who can be seen as a competent woman trying to get ahead in a man's world by incre ...more
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
the story is hard to comprehend. I don't know if it's because of my reading level, but I found it diffcult to comprehend. I got the wrong idea from the story; I only realized when we reviewed it in class.
Jake Bosak
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
A decent story that may take certain people a bit longer to understand. Other than this, the story has a great idea, an the main character, Mr. Martin's plan seems like he had been plotting it for 20 years, although it hasn't been 1.
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rural Soul
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to read humour and crime together.
One of the best memorable tales of cunningness, revenge and humor, I ever had enjoyed years ago in Sabrang Digest.
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's been years since I've read this delightfully funny, warped short story, and it was great fun to read it again last night. Thurber's sense of humor is just perfect, and I found myself chuckling several times as I read it. (Actually, my husband and I read it together, and that was even more fun.) I could picture the antagonist, Mr. Martin, and the incredibly irritating antagonist, Mrs. Barrows, perfectly in my mind, and I sympathized with poor Mr. Martin's frustrations in his workplace. This ...more
Mar 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
Opening lines:
Mr. Martin bought the pack of Camels on Monday night in the most crowded cigar store on Broadway. It was theatre time and seven or eight men were buying cigarettes. The clerk didn’t even glance at Mr. Martin, who put the pack in his overcoat pocket and went out. If any of the staff at F & S had seen him buy the cigarettes, they would have been astonished, for it was generally known that Mr. Martin did not smoke, and never had. No one saw him.

You may read online FullReads.
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Catbird Seat by James Thurber is about a man named Mr. Martin who thinks that a co worker, Mrs. Barrows is trying to replace his job. Even though this story is a comedy, I didn’t think it was funny. I did learn some metaphors like, “tearing up the pea patch.” This story does use irony as humor, but it doesn’t build up the irony at all. I recommend this story to people who think that metaphors are funny.
Anne Schilde
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was hoping for perhaps a little bit more, but it was clever, amusing, and well-written. Definitely a little different as twists go. I just loved this quote opening the second paragraph:
"It was just a week to the day since Mr. Martin had decided to rub out Mrs. Ulgine Barrows. The term "rub out" pleased him because it suggested nothing more than the correction of an error ‐‐"
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Heard a bit of a reading on NPR and I was intrigued, so I looked for another reading online when I got home.

There is a decent reading by Keith Olbermann though he reads a little fast.

A copy of the story is at

I'd like to get a copy of The Thurber Carnival.
Demetrius Sherman
Dec 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really liked this funny short piece. It was a movie I understand, but I never saw it. I have been a Thurber fan since high school and I like his off beat sense of humor story-telling. There's a good chance you will enjoy this very amusing tale.
Laura Morrigan
I enjoyed this story, I wish I could remember the title of the collection it was in, there were some really good stories in it! I wish I could think of such a clever way to deal with workplace bullies.
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Read this for English/Language Arts, and although it was a little confusing and rather strange, I enjoyed reading it, which is more than I can say for some of the other short stories that I have read.
Nov 27, 2014 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of the examples of the Entartainment Literature. Thurber is using the unexpected as irony. We are unable to know whether it's a dream or not but it's a well-written story.
Sep 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Absolutely brilliant. 4 pages, unassuming character, one event. Sheer brilliance.
Dec 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-story, 2013
Quick, fun read about the lengths a man will go to remove a pest.

The story made me chuckle, especially at the end, as the main character worked out ways to make life return to normal.
Feb 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of fun & hillarious short stories
Recommended to Blessing by: My Mother
A most cunning story. Quite clever is the main character, and it is hillarious. Short story but a MUST read!
Mar 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I say amazing because for an author to actually make me laugh out loud is quite a feat. Just a really smart, quirky short story.
Apr 18, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who lack purpose in their life
WEIRD. I don't see the point of it.
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
one of my all time favorite short stories...on the to-read again and again list
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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