The Thurber Carnival
I don’t know how many people nowadays would have ever heard of James Thurber. Perhaps they’ve heard of him as the author of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” since there’s another in the long series of treatments of that story out in movie form just lately. He wrote his share of pure fiction of the Mitty sort, but he was also popular as a writer of the humorous essay, of the type we might call “non-fiction” if we were inclined to extend the same leniency to his “non” as we’ve always extended to Mark Twain’s.
He wrote for the New Yorker in its heyday, under Harold Ross, and he was also a creditable cartoonist — no mean feat for a man nearly blind. Many — or most — or all? — of these pieces were collected in book form, and at some forgotten moment of my youth, after he was moldy in the grave, I met up with one of these books. Eventually I read, I believe, every last one of them, or at least every one that was available in the public library in my town. At present I have three Thurber books in my library, enough to meet the sporadic demand for my rereading or lending out.
The Thurber Carnival is a sort of demi-omnibus volume, being a collection of pieces excerpted from his other collections. Happily, it contains my two favorite Thurber essays, with his cartoon illustrations.
The one with the shoe-hurling lady is called “The Night the Bed Fell.” Spoiler alert: The bed didn’t really fall.
The other one is “The Day the Dam Broke.” Spoiler alert: The dam didn’t really break.
In some of Thurber’s essays, you see, he wrote about funny stuff that happened, and in others he wrote funnily about stuff that didn’t happen.