The Thurber Carnival

The Thurber Carnival

by James Thurber


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060932879
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/19/2013
Series: Perennial Classics Series
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 210,713
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.01(d)

About the Author

James Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1894. Famous for his humorous writings and illustrations, he was a staff member of The New Yorker for more than thirty years. He died in 1961.

Read an Excerpt

The Lady on 142

The train was twenty minutes late, we found out when we bought our tickets, so we sat down on a bench in the little waiting room of the Cornwall Bridge station. It was too hot outside in the sun. This midsummer Saturday had got off to a sulky start, and now, at three in the afternoon, it sat, sticky and restive, in our laps.

There were several others besides Sylvia and myself waiting for the train to get in from Pittsfield: a colored woman who fanned herself with a Daily News, a young lady in her twenties reading a book, a slender, tanned man sucking dreamily on the stem of an unlighted pipe. In the centre of the room, leaning against a high iron radiator, a small girl stared at each of us in turn, her mouth open, as if she had never seen people before. The place had the familiar, pleasant smell of railroad stations in the country, of something compounded of wood and leather and smoke. In the cramped space behind the ticket window, a telegraph instrument clicked intermittently, and once or twice a phone rang and the stationmaster answered it briefly. I couldn't hear what he said.

I was glad, on such a day, that we were going only as far as Gaylordsville, the third stop down the line, twenty-two minutes away. The stationmaster had told us that our tickets were the first tickets to Gaylordsville he had ever sold. I was idly pondering this small distinction when a train whistle blew in the distance. We all got to our feet, but the stationmaster came out of his cubbyhole and told us it was not our train but the 12:45 from New York, northbound. Presently the train thundered in like a hurricane and sighed ponderously to a stop.The stationmaster went out onto the platform and came back after a minute or two. The train got heavily under way again, for Canaan.

I was opening a pack of cigarettes when I heard the station master talking on the phone again. This time his words came out clearly. He kept repeating one sentence. He was saying, "Conductor Reagan on 142 has the lady the office was asking about." The person on the other end of the fine did not appear to get the meaning of the sentence. The stationmaster repeated it and hung up. For some reason, I figured that he did not understand it either.

Sylvia's eyes had the lost, reflective look they wear when she is trying to remember in what box she packed the Christmas-tree ornaments. The expressions on the faces of the colored woman, the young lady, and the man with the pipe had not changed. The little staring girl had gone away.

Our train was not due for another five minutes, and I sat back and began trying to reconstruct the lady on 142, the lady Conductor Reagan had, the lady the office was asking about. I moved nearer to Sylvia and whispered, "See if the trains are numbered in your timetable." She got the timetable out of her handbag and looked at it. "One forty-two," she said, "is the 12:45 from New York." This was the train that had gone by a few minutes before. "The woman was taken sick," said Sylvia. "They are probably arranging to have a doctor or her family meet her."

The colored woman looked around at her briefly. The young woman, who had been chewing gum, stopped chewing. The man with the pipe seemed oblivious. I lighted a cigarette and sat thinking. "The woman on 142," I said to Sylvia, finally, "might be almost anything, but she definitely is not sick." The only person who did not stare at me was the man with the pipe. Sylvia gave me her temperature-taking look, a cross between anxiety and vexation. just then our train whistled and we all stood up. 1 picked up our two bags and Sylvia took the sack of string beans we had picked for the Connells.

When the train came clanking in, I said in Sylvia's ear, "He'll sit near us. You watch." "Who? Who will?" she said. "The stranger," I told her, "the man with the pipe."

Sylvia laughed. "He's not a stranger," she said. "He works for the Breeds." I was certain that he didn't. Women like to place people; every stranger reminds them of somebody.

The man with the pipe was sitting three seats in front of us, across the aisle, when we got settled. I indicated him with a nod of my head. Sylvia took a book out of the top of her overnight bag and opened it. "What's the matter with you?" she demanded. I looked around before replying. A sleepy man and woman sat across from us. Two middle-aged women in the seat in front of us were discussing the severe griping pain one of them had experienced as the result of an inflamed diverticulum. A slim, dark-eyed young woman sat in the seat behind us. She was alone.

"The trouble with women," I began, "is that they explain everything by illness. I have a theory that we would be celebrating the twelfth of May or even the sixteenth of April as Independence Day if Mrs. Jefferson hadn't got the idea her husband had a fever and put him to bed."

Sylvia found her place in the book. "We've been all through that before," she said. "Why couldn't the woman on 142 be sick?"

That was easy, I told her. "Conductor Reagan," I said, "got off the train at Cornwall Bridge and spoke to the stationmaster. 'I've got the woman the office was asking about,' he said."

Sylvia cut in. "He said 'lady.'"

I gave the little laugh that annoys her. "All conductors say 'lady,'" I explained. "Now, if a woman had got sick on the train, Reagan would have said, 'A woman got sick on my train. Tell the office.' What must have happened is that Reagan found, somewhere between Kent and Cornwall Bridge, a woman the office had been looking for."

Table of Contents

Foreword xiii
Preface: My Fifty Years with James Thurber xv
I Stories Not Collected Before in Book Form
The Lady on 142
The Catbird Seat
Memoirs of a Drudge
The Cane in the Corridor
The Secret Life of James Thurber
Recollections of the Gas Buggy
II From My World and Welcome to It
What do You Mean It was Brillig?
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Here Lies Miss Groby
The Man Who Hated Moonbaum
The Macbeth Murder Mystery
A Ride with Olympy
III From Let Your Mind Alone!
Destructive Forces in Life
Sex Ex Machina
The Breaking up of the Winships
The admiral on the wheel
A Couple of Hamburgers
Bateman comes home
Doc Marlowe
The Wood Duck
IV From The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze
The Departure of Emma Inch
There's an owl in my room
The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery
Snapshot of a Dog
Something to say
The Curb in the sky
The Black magic of Barney Haller
If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox
The Remarkable Case of Mr. Bruhl
The Luck of Jad Peters
The Greatest man in the World
The Evening's at Seven
One is a Wanderer
V My Life and Hard Times, complete
Preface to a Life
The Night the Bed Fell
The car we had to Push
The day the Dam Broke
The night the ghost got in
More alarms at night
A Sequence of servants
The Dog that bit People
University Days
Draft Board Nights
A Note at the end
VI From Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated
The Birds and the Foxes
The Little Girl and the Wolf
The Scotty who Knew too Much
The Very Proper Gander
The Bear Who Let it Alone
The Shrike and the Chipmunks
The seal who became famous
The crow and the oriole
The moth and the star
The glass in the field
The Rabbits who caused all the trouble
The owl who was god
The unicorn in the carden
"Oh when I was..."
Barbara Frietchie
The sands o'dee
Curfew must not ring tonight
VII From The Owl in the Attic
The pet department
VIII From The Seal in the Bedroom
"With You I Have Known Peace, Lida, and Now You Say You're Going Crazy"
"Are You the Young Man That Bit My Daughter?"
"Here's a Study for You, Doctor---He Faints"
"Mamma Always Gets Sore and Spoils the Game for Everybody"
"For the Last Time---You and Your Horsie Get Away from Me and Stay Away!"
"Well, What's Come Over You Suddenly?"
"Have You People Got Any .38 Cartidges?"
"The Father Belonged to Some People Who Were Driving Through in a Packard"
"Stop Me!"
"I Don't Know. George Got It Somewhere"
"All Right, Have It Your Way---You Heard a Seal Bark"
The Bloodhound and the Bug
IX From Men, Women and Dogs
"This is Not the Real Me You're Seeing, Mrs. Clisbie"
"What's Come Over You Since Friday, Miss Schemke?"
"Hello, Darling---Woolgathering?"
"It's a Native Domestic Burgundy Without Any Breeding, But I Think You'll Be Amused by Its Presumption"
"Oh, Doctor Canroy---Look!"
"I'd Feel a Great Deal Easier If Her Husband Hadn't Gone to Bed"
"And This Is Tom Weatherby, an Old Beau of Your Mother's. He Never Got to First Base"
"Perhaps This Will Refresh Your Memory"
"...And Keep Me a Normal, Healthy, American Girl"
"It's Parkins, Sir; We're 'Aving a Bit of a Time Below Stairs"
"Darling, I Seem to Have This Rabbit"
"That's My First Wife Up There, and This Is the Present Mrs. Harris"
"You're Not My Patient, You're My Meat, Mrs. Quist!"
"She Has the True Emily Dickinson Spirit Except That She Gets Fed Up Occasionally"
"I Said the Hounds of Spring Are on Winter's Traces---But Let It Pass, Let It Pass!"
"For Heaven's Sake, Why Don't You Go Outdoors and Trace Something?"
"I Don't Want Him to Be Comfortable If He's Going to Look Too Funny."
"Yoo-hoo, It's Me and the Ape Man"
"Look Out! Here They Come Again!"
"You Wait Here and I'll Bring the Etchings Down"
"Well, Who Made the Magic Go Out of Our Marriage---You or Me?"
House and Woman
"Well, If I Called the Wrong Number, Why Did You Answer the Phone?"
"This Gentleman Was Kind Enough to See Me Home, Darling"
"I Come From Haunts of Coot and Hern!"
"Well, I'm Disenchanted, Too. We're All Disenchanted"
"What Do You Want to Be Inscrutable for, Marcia?"
"You Said a Moment Ago That Everybody You Look at Seems to Be a Rabbit. Now Just What Do You Mean by That, Mrs. Sprague?"
"Why, I Never Dreamed Your Union Had Been Blessed With Issue!"
"Have You Seen My Pistol, Honey-bun?"
"It's Our Own Story Exactly! He Bold as a Hawk, She Soft as the Dawn"
"You and Your Permonitions!"
"All Right, All Right, Try It That Way! Go Ahead and Try It That Way!"
"Well, It Makes a Difference to Me!"
"There's No Use You Trying to Save Me, My Good Man"
Man in Tree
"What Have You Done With Dr. Millmoss?"
The War Between Men and Women
About James Thurber 413(10)
The Thurber Carnival, 1945 423

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Thurber Carnival 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
figre on LibraryThing 8 months ago
How disappointing.I admit, all I really knew of James Thurber was ¿The Secret Life of Walter Mitty¿ and a few cartoons and his reputation. But that was enough to make me really look forward to this collection. I was greatly disappointed.I have no real explanation other than the humor must be just too dated. I know for a fact that many of the pieces definitely are. I realize these are from a certain period of time, but some hold racist (unintentional) overtones and others are particularly demeaning to women. But even the pieces that don¿t suffer from such problems just don¿t rise above the mundane. They are clever, a couple are humorous, one or two are downright funny. But, as a whole, the collection is depressing for how little there is that makes it worth reading.
gregory_gwen on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Love this! I have read it many times since childhood, had to buy a new copy recently.
LTFL_JMLS on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Love this! I have read it many times since childhood, had to buy a new copy recently.
Darla on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I remember reading all the books of his they had in the library when I was a kid--inspired by the short-running TV show "My World and Welcome to It" which was based on his work. Amazingly, I found him just as entertaining as I did as a child. The Thurber Carnival is a hodge-podge of essays, stories, and drawings culled over several decades and from several other collections. Some are better than others, of course, and quite a few of them are very dated--unsurprisingly, since the book was originally published in 1945, and compiled at that time from earlier sources.It doesn't really seem to matter. Even though I can't really relate to the early days of the automobile, it didn't stop me from laughing aloud at "Recollections of a Gas Buggy." Human nature hasn't changed all that much in the past 60 or 70 years.There are quite a few classic stories in here, including "The Catbird Seat," which is a delicious story of revenge, and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," which I hadn't even realized was Thurber's.His drawings are just as entertaining, which is even more startling after reading in the biography what poor eyesight he had. With just a few lines, he manages to do the same thing he does in the stories and essays with just a few words.Most of the humor has to do with human nature--specifically, with the way people communicate, or don't. One of the best (i.e. most hilarious) examples is "What Do You Mean It Was Brillig?" in which he lampoons both his housekeeper's accent and his own misunderstanding of and reaction to it. There's also a darkly humorous story, "The Breaking Up of the Winships," about a couple who divorces over a disagreement about Greta Garbo. Change a few minor details, and these stories are as true today as they were when they were written.I'm really happy I bought this. Not only was it wonderfully nostalgic, and still entertaining today, but I've got this lovely book of very funny, very short pieces that are easy to share with my family. I don't even begrudge the 3 days it took me to read.
rossryanross on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Does anyone read Thurber anymore? I don't think many people do, and it's a damn shame, because that gawky misfit of a man wrote some of the greatest stories of the past century. His drawings are loveable, and the stab in his voice is mild (much less brutal than Dorothy Parker's) but penetrating and funny in a way that makes you think and laugh at the same time. Thurber is an American master who is slipping through the cracks.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am currently in a college production of this play and we are enjoying every moment of it. With James Thurber's humor was as good them (I assume) as it is to today's audiences
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everything one needs to understand and appreciate the comic nature of humanity.