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James Thurber: Criticism and Reviews

A Critical Review of James Thurber by Jeffrey W. Coker is provided by the Gale Encyclopedia of Popular Culture.

The New York Observer presents a review by Andre Bernard of The Thurber Letters: The Wit, Wisdom and Surprising Life of James Thurber.

"A Mailbag of Thurber, From Fond to Scathing" is a review written by Janet Maslin and provided by The New York Times on the Web.

The Harvard Book Review features a review of The Thurber Letters: The Wit, Wisdom and Surprising Life of James Thurber.

Boston Phoenix has a critical review by Robert David Sullivan of James Thurber: His Life and Times.

Additional criticism and review of James Thurber's works can be found at your local public library.

The following reviews can be accessed online only by an individual who has a current library card through this address.

"James Thurber: The Primitive, the Innocent, and the Individual."
Critic: Robert H. Elias.
Thurber: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Charles S. Holmes, Prentice-Hall, 1974, pp. 87-100.

"For more than a generation James Thurber has been writing stories, an impressive number of them as well shaped as the most finely wrought pieces of Henry James, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, as sensitively worded as the most discriminatingly written prose of H. L. Mencken, Westbrook Pegler and J. D. Salinger, and as…"

"James Thurber's Little Man and Liberal Citizens."
Critic: Norris Yates.
The American Humorist: Conscience of the Twentieth Century, Iowa State University Press, 1964, pp. 275-98.

"In his nonfictional essays Thurber sometimes wears the mask of the same figure who cowers in his fiction, with the minor difference that the Little Man of the essays often writes for a living. As a writer, he may easily be portrayed as…"

"The Art of James Thurber."
Critic: Richard C. Tobias.
The Art of James Thurber, Ohio University Press, 1969.

(Thurber's) work should be called a pleasure dome of the American imagination… It seems strange that a nation which is eager to praise its own genius has not praised Thurber more, but possibly our ignoring his work merely follows the familiar habit of slighting our genuine man of talent, like…"

"Thurber's Walter Mitty -- The Underground American Hero."
Critic: Carl M. Lindner.
The Georgia Review, Summer, 1974, pp. 283-89.

James Thurber has long been recognized as one of America's leading modern humorists. His stories, sketches, and cartoons are engaging, often leading to chuckles of wry reminiscence. But when he created The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Thurber wrought better than he knew, for he had…"

"Introduction to Men, Women and Dogs."
Critic: Wilfrid Sheed.
Men, Women and Dogs by James Thurber, Dodd, Mead, 1975.

"Thurber was a marvelous comic writer, but alone among such he was able to sketch the phantasmagoric goo from which his funny ideas came. If Henry James or Dostoevsky had done their own illustrations, the results could hardly have been stranger or more illuminating. Men, Women and Dogs is like a writer's head with the back open; the fact that it's funny back there is as spooky as…"

"James Thurber: Artist in Humor."
Critic: Louis Hasley.
South Atlantic Quarterly, Autumn, 1974, pp. 504-15.

"Beyond question the foremost humorist of the twentieth century, James Thurber was a divided man. With minor exceptions he did not explore the century's large social and political problems. War, religion, crime, poverty, civil rights -- these were not his subjects. Instead he struck at…"

"If There Is No Human Comedy, It Will Be Necessary to Create One."
Critic: Nathaniel Benchley.
New York Herald Tribune Books, November 25, 1962, p. 3.

This review "considers Thurber's Credos and Curios in relation to the author's whole body of work."

"Thurber's Last Collection."
Critic: Frank Getlein.
The New Republic, December 22, 1962, pp. 24-5.

In this review "the critic deems that Thurber's posthumously published essays and sketches in Credos and Curios are a representative summary of Thurber's career."

"Christian Parody in Thurber's 'You Could Look It Up.'"
Critic: Charles E. May.
Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 15, No. 4, Fall, 1978, pp. 453-4.

This essay "views Thurber's baseball short story 'You Could Look It Up' as an 'ironic, modernized retelling' of a biblical tale."

"The Comic Anti-Hero in American Fiction: Its First Full Articulation."
Critic: Wes D. Gehring.
Thalia, Vol. 2, No. 3, Winter, 1979-80, pp. 11-14.

"In this essay, Gehring identifies Thurber's work for the New Yorker in the 1920s as one of the first instances of a new twentieth-century literary figure, the comic anti-hero."

"Daughter Improves Everything."
Critic: Roderick Nordell.
Christian Science Monitor, December 14, 1981, pp. B1, B3.

"This review of Selected Letters of James Thurber warmly appreciates the substance of the volume but comments unfavorably on the selection criteria for which letters are included."

"James Thurber and the Hazards of Humor."
Critic: Melvin Maddocks.
Sewanee Review, Vol. XCIII, No. 4, Fall, 1985, pp. 597-601.

"This rapid overview of many of Thurber's most famous works aims to dispute Thurber's critical reputation as the foremost American humorist of his time."

"A Thimbleful of Thurber."
Critic: William Joyce.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 25, 1990, p. 25.

"In this review, Joyce, a writer of children's books, welcomes the republication of three of Thurber's books for young people."

"From the Thurber Trove: Good Humor, Good Always."
Critic: James Idema.
Chicago Tribune Books, July 10, 1994, p. 6.

"This review finds the previously uncollected works in People Have More Fun Than Anybody equal to any of Thurber's more celebrated and familiar writing and cartoons."

"An overview of 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.'"
Critic: Trudy Ring.
Short Stories for Students, Gale Research, 1997.

In this essay, "Ring provides an introduction to 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,' comments upon the universal appeal of the main character, and examines the themes presented in Thurber's story."

"'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty': Overview."
Critic: Robert D. Arner.
Reference Guide to American Literature, 3rd ed., edited by Jim Kamp, St. James Press, 1994.

"Originally published in the New Yorker on 18 March 1939, 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' is far and away James Thurber's most famous piece of fiction. The story features two themes…"

"James Thurber: Overview."
Critic: Brian Stableford.
St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, edited by David Pringle, St. James Press, 1996.

"James Thurber became famous as a cartoonist and writer of humorous essays; his early ventures into fiction were a form of spin-off, taking the form of brief 'fables,' each with…"

"James Thurber: Overview."
Critic: David McCord.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 4th ed., edited by Laura Standley Berger, 1995.

James Thurber, an American original in humor, satire, nonsense, drawing, and patently a wild tyrannothesaurus type when on the hunt for words, slipped into the field of children's literature by the back front gate, like…"

"James Thurber's Dream Book."
Critic: Malcolm Cowley.
The New Republic, Vol. 112, No. 11, March 12, 1945, pp. 362-63.

"Cowley, an American editor and critic, was a friend of Thurber as well as his editor at the New Republic. In the following excerpt, he praises Thurber's literary style in A Thurber Carnival."

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