James Thurber has been unlucky in his biographers, who have tended to like him overmuch or not or all. Their task might have been easier had the story had more drama, or had Thurber been born at a different time. He was too young for the Algonquin wits of the 1920s and too old for the literary Marxists of the 1930s. His crowd was the Hiding Generation, not the Lost Generation. He took refuge in his cartoons and stories, for which he sought inspiration from impossible love affairs and from Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Almost forgotten today, he was the funniest American writer of his day.

Thurber is recalled in Thurber Country, a reissued collection of short stories (first published in 1949), and The Thurber Letters, an 800-page tome edited by Harrison Kinney.[1] For further reading, Kinney helpfully recommends “the definitive biography” by one Harrison Kinney....

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