Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

During the decade before Harold Ross’s death in 1951, several magazines asked James Thurber to contribute essays about Ross and about Thurber’s adventures with him in the weekly production of The New Yorker. Thurber declined these requests, but in 1957, Charles Morton, of The Atlantic Monthly, queried Thurber repeatedly about the possibility of a series of articles on Ross. One of these queries reached Thurber in the Bahamas just as he was giving up the writing of a play on which he had been working for several months. He said yes to Morton and wrote and published in The Atlantic Monthly several articles about Ross in 1957 and 1958. Upon realizing, however, that “the restless force named Harold Wallace Ross could not be so easily confined and contained,” he elected to amplify the written record of his memories of Ross considerably. In 1959, he published The Years with Ross.

Thurber indicates in his foreword to the book that from the beginning he avoided the writing of a formal biography. Nevertheless, many facts of Ross’s life—as well as Thurber’s—make their way into the book. Its principal device is the anecdote, and Thurber is himself able to supply many of these in building up a very solid— though never solemn—sense of Ross’s character. Citations concerning Ross from the letters and works of other people are copious without ever causing the work to seem crowded or chaotic. There was chaos in the...

(The entire section is 472 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Coates, Robert M. “New Yorker Days,” in Thurber: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1974. Edited by Charles S. Holmes.

Ford, Corey. The Time of Laughter, 1967.

Kramer, Dale. Ross and the “New Yorker,” 1952.

Morsberger, Robert E. James Thurber, 1964.

Nugent, Elliott. Events Leading Up to the Comedy, 1965.

Plimpton, George, and Max Steele. “James Thurber,” in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, 1959. Edited by George Plimpton.

Tobias, Richard C. The Art of James Thurber, 1969.