Bitterfly had earlier asked me some nicely framed questions about James and American innocence, and I think the issue is worth continued discussion under James as a specific author. Here is how we started the discussion, and as an avid Jamesian, there are many aspects to it: Originally Posted by Bitterfly Speaking about James, I was interested in what you said about the American voice being characterised by its innocence, Jozanny. If you read my post, would you care to explain? Do you mean there are many innocent narrators, or that there's a general wistfulness for a lost age of innocence? I would have said that innocence, its loss and its quest were themes rather than ...
The editor that wrote that must have been in a bar matching drinks with Thurber. What a hoot!
Yet, oddly, if you reread it, a glimmer of dash and sanity shines through.
I’ve got it! That was Thurber writing the jazzed up, jabberwockey blurb about his own book! All nonsense aside, the book contains some of the best stories he had ever written – or ever would. There are only nine selections, but the majority of them are classics. For instance, choose between “The Night the Bed Fell,” “The Night the Ghost Got In,” “The Dog That Bit People” and the unforgettable “The Day the Dam Broke.” In that last one, Thurber stirs up hilarious images drawn from the famed flood of 1913 when a good portion of Franklinton was underwater. Who can ever forget the frantic folk fleeing out East Broad Street when they heard that the Dam had broken? He tells us how they were encumbered by his grandfather, saber in hand, who thought all the confusion was caused by an invasion of Civil War calvarymen. At Parsons Avenue and East Town Street they had to stun the old gentleman or they would have been engulfed by the imaginary waters. There are three drawings that accompany the story, one show men, women, and dogs fleeing out East Broad Street. Another shows a woman atop the “These Are My Jewels” statue in front of the State Capitol.
All of the stories are autobiographical, if you bear in mind they are told with tongue in cheek. And, a wink of the eye. Looking back on it, we can see that he was walking a tightrope.
Psychoanalyzing himself. Playing the role of his own shrink – at bargain prices.
Consider: He was still married to Althea, but separated. He had a small daughter, Rosemary, who was living with her mother in Connecticut. He was running around with his arty friends in New York.
Writing these stories was his way of compensating. Keeping his life in balance.
By reliving – revisiting – those early days, and putting a humorous spin on them, he was treating us to some great writing.
And, leaving some hard-to-fill footprints in the sand.
If you haven’t read My Life and Hard Times , get yourself a copy. Your neighborhood library probably has a copy, or check one of the numerous used bookstores in Columbus. You’ll be glad you did!