James Thurber

Facts about James Thurber

James Thurber died at 66 years old
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio, United States
Best known as: Author of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


James Thurber Biography

James Thurber’s witty short stories and lumpy cartoons were a popular mainstay of The New Yorker magazine in the 1930s and 1940s. A Midwestern boy with an urbane twist, Thurber mixed comical reminiscences of his Ohio childhood with wry observations on modern times and the battle of the sexes. (His best-known story is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the tale of a henpecked husband who escapes into heroic daydreams.) Thurber’s funny, loopy, absurdist cartoons featured men, women, dogs and other strange animals. He was by turns hilarious and melancholy, and his darker nature seemed to come out in stories and cartoons about husbands and wives: the wives often domineering and sarcastic, the husbands harried or bitterly triumphant. Like Mark Twain, Thurber became increasingly morose in his last decade, although he continued to write until his death. His books include the spoof Is Sex Necessary? (1929, with E.B. White), the fanciful “autobiography” My Life and Hard Times (1933), the New Yorker memoir The Years With Ross (1959), and the short story collections The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935) and The Thurber Carnival (1933). He also wrote the 1950 children’s book The Thirteen Clocks. With Elliot Nugent he wrote the play The Male Animal (published 1940).

Extra credit

Thurber’s nickname was “Jamie”… He lost sight in one eye in while playing bows-and-arrows with his brothers in 1901; his other eye slowly failed, and by the 1950s he had become legally blind… Thurber died after collapsing from a blood clot on the brain; some sources list it as a brain tumor… Thurber was married to Althea Adams from 1922-35; they had one child, Rosemary, born in 1931. His second marriage, to Helen Wismer, lasted from 1935 until his death in 1961… The Thurber Carnival also has become a popular stage play.


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