Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Life and Hard Times

I spent a couple of hours on the porch today with James Thurber reading his My Life and Hard Times ( #2 on my List of 10).  The neighbors might have wondered if I had gone a bit mad as I was laughing out loud most of the time.

The book is his autobiographical tale of growing up in Columbus, Ohio. Not your typical life. Consider the chapter titles:

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; and, Draft Board Nights.

Many things seemed to befall the Thurber family at night. There was always trouble with some mechanical contraption. Electricity leaked from the wall sockets. There was chaos caused by ghosts, terror caused by a mean Airedale, and confusion at the examination hall of the Draft Board.

And all of this in 86 pages. Not a mention of drugs, abuse, violence - unless you count the time his mother threw a shoe at the neighbor's window to awaken him and plead for him to call the police as there were burglars in the house. And then this resulted in grandfather shooting one of the policemen in the shoulder but that wasn't his fault as he thought the cop was a deserter from Civil War General Meade's army.

Or so the story goes.

Thurber was born in 1894 in Columbus, Ohio. This book takes a look at his life up to 1918 - proof that a lot can happen in a mere 24 years. He went on to work for the Department of State in Washington, D.C. and was attached to the American Embassy in Paris. His journalism career started when he returned home to Columbus, took him again to Paris where he wrote for the Chicago Tribune, and finally to New York City and the New York Evening Post. By 1927, he had joined The New Yorker magazine as an editor and continued to contribute to the publication until the 1950s. He died in 1961.

My Life and Hard Times is not the only Thurber volume on my shelf. There are also Thurber's Dogs, Thurber on Crime, Let Your Mind Alone!, and Lances and Lanterns.

The man is certainly always good for a laugh.

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