Cartoons and funny articles in a style that is spare and gentle.
James Thurber was one of the most beloved humorists of the last century and his cartoons were regularly featured in The New Yorker for over 30 years. I recently visited his boyhood home in Columbus, Ohio, where the stories about Thurber’s childhood explained a lot about his gentle and quirky humor, particularly the tales about his delightfully cooky mother and his love of dogs.
Thurber’s drawings are spare, simple black lines and experts speculate that it may be due in part to an eye injury he received as a child. If your knowledge of Thurber’s work is limited to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and its recent movie incarnation, I suggest reading The Thurber Carnival, a collection of his short stories and drawings for a better look at the author/illustrator. For example, one of my favorite of Thurber’s canine characters is Muggs, in “The Dog That Bit People.” Muggs, a really crabby Airedale, was one of the family dogs (Thurber owned 53 during his life). Muggs bit everyone except Mrs. Thurber who always defended him. Thurber writes, “Mother used to send a box of candy every Christmas to the people the Airedale bit. The list finally contained forty or more names.” Like most authors’ homes, Thurber’s house offers a view of life in a slower, though with Muggs around, not necessarily a safer era.
Apart from the stories and drawings, one of Thurber’s most important legacies is the Thurber Prize for American Humor that is now awarded in his name from the non-profit that runs the house and the many Thurber House programs for writers. Winners have included Jon Stewart, David Sedaris,Calvin Trillin and most recently Minnesotan Julie Schumaker for her hilarious book Dear Committee Members. See my article in the Minnesota Women’s Press on Julie Schumacher.