James Thurber Biography

James Thurber Biography

James Thurber's name has become synonymous with American humor. Throughout his many publications and contributions to The New Yorker, Thurber crafted a uniquely quirky version of Americana. Perhaps his most famous story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (which became a film eight years after its publication) best captures his style. The story deals with an Average Joe whose wild fantasy life takes him on five very different, very humorous adventures. Thurber also had comedic success in the theater with his play The Male Animal and with a one-man show based on his own writings. Thurber even became the subject of a brief, but critically heralded, television series that debuted a few years after his death.

Facts and Trivia

  • As a youth, Thurber was shot in the eye by one of his brothers while playing William Tell. He lost the eye, and his remaining eyesight continued to decline for the rest of his life.
  • As a young man, Thurber worked as a reporter in his native Columbus, Ohio, where he was a movie, theater, and literature critic.
  • During his time at The New Yorker, Thurber worked alongside fellow writer E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web.
  • In addition to his writing, Thurber was an accomplished artist. He provided numerous illustrations and cover art during his tenure at The New Yorker.
  • Thurber’s drawing was obviously affected by his poor eyesight. Writer Dorothy Parker once assessed Thurber’s drawings as having the “semblance of unbaked cookies.”
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