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The Thurber Carnival

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  2,960 ratings  ·  182 reviews
"An authentic American genius. . . . Mr. Thurber belongs in the great lines of American humorists that includes Mark Twain and Ring Lardner." --Philadelphia Inquirer

James Thurber’s unique ability to convey the vagaries of life in a funny, witty, and often satirical way earned him accolades as one of the finest humorists of the twentieth century. A bestseller upon its initi
Paperback, 425 pages
Published November 19th 2013 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (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
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
“One has the disturbing feeling that the man contrived to be some place without actually having gone there.”

I picked this text up because I played a teenaged James Thurber in an autobiographical play about his childhood years ago. “The Thurber Carnival” was published in 1945 and is a compendium of James Thurber’s work from 9 previous collections. At one time, he was one of the most famous writers in America. The Preface, written by Thurber himself is a great start to the collection.
I noticed th
Sep 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Sep 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Erik Graff
Feb 23, 2009 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". ...more
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
May 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Finished: 19.05.2019
Genre: essays
Rating: B
50% very funny....the rest so-s0.
Finished while watching EuroVision Song Festival 2019
...turned off the sound because
so many people just can't sing!
Even surprise guest Madonna has trouble hitting the high
notes these days!

Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
Although times have changed, and some parts of these stories are dated, many still seem relevant and most are very humorous. The added bonus of many of Thurber's cartoons was wonderful. I had many LOL moments. I was in the middle of another book, and thought I'd take a break and read a few of these stories. I ended up reading it straight through in a couple of days! Thanks to Jerome K. Jerome's book Three Men in a Boat:, I found out about some of his contemporary authors, and am eagerly explorin ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is possible that I had first come to enjoy the works of James Thurber from before I could read. We had several of his books including the 1945 addition of The Thurber Carnival. In the course of flipping through them I would've found and certainly enjoyed his childlike drawing style long before I came to appreciate itssometimes subtle and sophisticated humor. Some years later I would've read the several Thurber books we had and then for some reason not return to him for decades.

What I remember
Nov 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With a combination of nostalgia and ennui, I reread The Thurber Carnival a few stories at a time as amusing bedtime reading. While, as mentioned in other reviews, the witty stories are certainly of a specific era –the 1930s– like a dirty martini, Thurber's dry wit provides a tingling mild joy followed by a blurry mirthful confusion.

A sense of dread pervades many of the stories about married couples. The family tales (Grandpa fell off the bed!) are most amusing. Also, I enjoyed the Columbus tales
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
Dec 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Like all of his stories are predicated on how quaint his former house staff were but all his cartoons made me laugh out loud and there’s one drawing of a cat with angry eyebrows that my mom* said I should get a tattoo of after she took an ambien.

*noted tattoo hater and thurber enjoyer
James Violand
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: own
The gentle humor of Thurber contrasts sharply with the current obscenity ladened imitation. Thurber was intended for anyone and usually induced laughter. That can’t be said for today’s baser banality that seems intended to induce embarrassment, anger or squeamishness.

Gregg Wingo
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
James Thurber was a gifted humorist and denizen of the Algonquin Hotel, although not a member of its famous Round Table despite being employed at The New Yorker. He thrived on satire rather than the sophomoric practical jokes of Parker and Benchley's Vicious Circle but Thurber also was grounded in his Mid-Westerner and Ohioan upbringing. His domain is that of the middle class home not Broadway and the Big Apple.

"The Thurber Carnival" covers the range of the author's works from previously uncoll
Garrett Zecker
Jul 30, 2011 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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
"...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 rated it really liked it
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
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
Brian Page
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Reread. The book is a collection of writings copryrighted between 1931 and 1945. You may be familiar with some of them. The most famous is perhaps "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". The quality of the pieces is uneven. The humor is definitely from a gentler time. The msunderstandings between men and women and the relationship of people with their pets are the most common themes. My favorite part of the book are the very casual line sketches - my favorite is the grumpy dog.
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I did not connect with the author's style, which I found insipid. With humor at its blandest, the book is also notable for a kind of casual racism and misogyny, which I take as being considered acceptable in its own time. The high points would be "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", and the 'graphic novel' of "The War Between Men and Women". ...more
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
A collection of some of my favorite James Thurber stories & fables. What Do You Mean It Was Brillig?, The Macbeth Murder Mystery, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Catbird Seat, and my favorite - The Unicorn in the Garden. Add many of his drawings. Great collection.
R.K. Cowles
Jul 24, 2019 rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
Sedaris wishes he were this funny.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, fiction
*3.75 stars.
"Secretary Killam of the Civil Service Commission had a tuba, on which I learned to play a few notes, an exciting and satisfying experience, as anyone who has brought forth a blast from a tuba knows" (21).
*Love the piece on communicating with Della (43-46).
"It is hard for me to believe that Miss Groby ever saw any famous work of literature from far enough away to know what it meant. She was forever climbing up the margins of books and crawling between their lines, hunting for the lit
Whistlers Mom
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leftovers OK tonight?

James Thurber was a popular American humor writer from 1933 (when "My Life and Hard Times" appeared) until his death in 1961. His stories, parodies, and cartoons appeared regularly in the prestigious New Yorker Magazine and his books were best-sellers. Unfortunately, his popularity never translated to great wealth. The New Yorker paid its famous writers very poorly in the early days and many of them reprinted their work into book-length "collections" to make much-needed inco
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What fun this book was. And I'm not just saying this because my last read was The House of Mirth.
James Thurber had a very unique way of seeing things. Because he was going blind, I can't help but wonder how much that affected how he "saw" things. His very entertaining gift for storytelling never got tiresome for me. Most of the stories were quite short. And I do wonder how many were true, fiction or severely exaggerated, but no matter.
Some of my favorites were The Catbird Seat, The Admiral On t
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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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