The Thurber Letters

The Wit, Wisdom and Surprising Life of James Thurber

About The Book

Though he died more than forty years ago, James Thurber remains one of America's greatest and most enduring humorists, and his books -- for both adults and children -- remain as popular as ever. In this comprehensive collection of his letters -- the majority of which have never before been published -- we find unsuspected insights into his life and career.
His prodigious body of work -- fables, drawings, comic essays, reportage, short stories, including his famous "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" -- all define Thurber's special and prolific genius. Like most good humorists, he was prone to exaggeration, embellishment, and good-natured self-deprecation. In his letters we find startling revelations about who he really was, and why the prism through which he viewed the world could often be both painfully and delightfully distorting.
For the first time, Thurber's daughter Rosemary has allowed the publication of many of the extremely personal letters he wrote early in his life to the women he was -- usually hopelessly -- in love with, as well as the affectionate and hilarious letters that he wrote to her. In addition, Harrison Kinney, noted Thurber biographer, has located a number of Thurber letters never before published. The Thurber Letters traces Thurber's progress from lovesick college boy to code clerk with the State Department in Paris and reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, through his marriages and love affairs, his special relationship with his daughter, his illustrious and tumultuous years with The New Yorker, his longstanding relationship with E. B. White, his close friendship with Peter De Vries, and his tragic last days. Included in the book are Thurber drawings never before published. His candid comments in these personal letters, whether lighthearted or melancholy, comprise an entertaining, captivating, informal biography -- pure, wonderful Thurber.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 22, 2003)
  • Length: 800 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743226219

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Raves and Reviews

Thomas Kunkel author of Genius In Disguise, the biography of Harold Ross, and editor of the collected letters of Ross, Letters from the Editor If you only know James Thurber from his beloved books, stories, and drawings, then this marvelous collection will be an education. In his letters Thurber could be warmly funny, yes, but also laceratingly so. His correspondence is wise, mischievous, erudite, and not infrequently bitter. This is a book to be relished by anyone who cares about Thurber, The New Yorker, or American letters in general.

Linda H. Davis author of Onward and Upward: A Biography of Katharine S. White and The Red Badge of Courage: The Life of Stephen Crane Was there anyone James Thurber didn't make time for? Here is a treasure chest of letters, brimming with gems (a bonus: he illustrated some of them). Whether writing to his daughter on her wedding day or to "Fred in Heaven," to a depressed Ernest Hemingway or to his old friend and former officemate E. B. White on the newly published Charlotte's Web ("It starts out fine"), he was a captivating correspondent. He was endlessly curious, covering every topic from bloodhounds to Thurber hounds, General George B. McClellan in the Civil War to The New Yorker. And he was funny. You won't want to miss the letter granting his lawyer permission to publish some drawings -- a masterpiece of nonsense legalese. Harrison Kinney deserves our thanks for this rich collection illuminated by helpful notes and asides. It is a perfect compliment to his definitive Thurber biography.

Samuel Hynes author of Flights of Passage, The Growing Seasons, The Auden Generation, and other major works of literary criticism For readers who believe, as I do, that James Thurber is a permanently important American writer, the publication of The Thurber Letters is a major event. The sublime humorist everybody knows is richly here, but so are all the other Thurbers: the social satirist, the sour misogynist, our man at The New Yorker, the whimsical writer of children's stories, the historian of American trivia, the lover, the father, the friend, the enemy. A big book, as it should be, and a great read all the way.

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