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Friday, May 18, 2007

Spring Reading Challenge

The Reading Challenge for spring is to revisit a favorite children's author, or an author you loved in the past but haven't read in a long while.

I chose:

***** The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber. Humor.

Not a children's author, but 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. Surprisingly, I was younger than I'd thought I was--8 or 9, rather than the 12 or 13 I'd guessed.

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 about this reading challenge. 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.


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