Although Thurber’s ambivalent attitude toward women complicated his earlier adult life, and his increasing blindness bedeviled his later years, he managed to capitalize famously on both deficiencies in his writing and drawing. Few humorists have so successfully transmuted their phobias and afflictions, as well as the general shortcomings of society, into art.
On December 8, 1894, James Grover Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio, where he spent his childhood except for a two-year stay in Washington, D.C. In Columbus, he absorbed the midwestern regional values that remained important to him all of his life: a liberal idealism, a conservative respect for the family, a belief in the agrarian virtues of industry and independence, and a healthy skepticism about the human potential for perfecting anything. He lost his left eye in a childhood accident that eventually led to almost complete blindness forty years later. He attended but did not graduate from Ohio State University, where he met Elliott Nugent, who was crucial in helping and encouraging Thurber to write. Thurber began his writing career as a journalist, earning his living primarily as a reporter in Ohio and France before he joined The New Yorker in 1927. There his friendship with E. B. White provided opportunities for him to perfect and publish the stories he had been working on since college. Within five years of beginning at The New Yorker, he became one of the best-known humorists in America. He married Althea Adams on May 20, 1922, and they had one daughter before their divorce in 1935. He married Helen Wismer on June 25, 1935. Despite impaired vision that seriously interfered with his work, beginning in the early 1940’s, Thurber nevertheless continued writing, though he gave up drawing in 1951. He published more than twenty volumes in his lifetime and left many works uncollected at his death. He died of pneumonia on November 2, 1961, a month after suffering a stroke.
Generally considered the greatest American humorist since Mark Twain, James Grover Thurber was born on December 8, 1894, in Columbus, Ohio, the setting for many of his comic reminiscences. His father was active in local politics; his mother had a histrionic gift of comic impersonation that gave his mind “a sense of confusion that . . . never left it.” When Thurber was six, his older brother accidentally shot him with an arrow in the left eye, which was replaced with a glass one. In Columbus, Thurber attended the public schools and Ohio State University, where he wrote for the campus paper and for the student monthly, of which he became editor in chief.
In June, 1918, Thurber left Ohio State University without...
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James Grover Thurber, the second of the three sons of Charles Thurber and the former Mary Agnes Fisher, was born in Columbus, Ohio, on December 8, 1894. The family moved to the Washington, D.C., area in 1902 while his father worked as a stenographer for his representative in Congress. At a temporary residence in Falls Church, Virginia, in August of that year, a rubber-tipped arrow shot by his brother William accidentally struck James in the left eye. Several days later the eye was removed, but the delay may have affected the right eye, whose sight he also subsequently lost. An embittered Thurber certainly thought so later. Troubles with his vision plagued him throughout his life but also inspired some of his rarest humor.
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