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American author and cartoonist (1894-1961)

Love is what you've been through with somebody.

JAMES THURBER, Life Magazine, Mar. 14, 1960

All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.

JAMES THURBER, "The Shore and the Sea," Further Fables for Our Time

Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.

JAMES THURBER, Credos and Curios

One [martini] is all right, two is too many, three is not enough.

JAMES THURBER, Time Magazine, Aug. 15, 1960

Man is flying too fast for a world that is round. Soon he will catch up with himself in a great rear end collision.

JAMES THURBER, Further Fables For Our Time

I don't believe the writer should know too much where he's going. If he does, he runs into old man blueprint—old man propaganda.

JAMES THURBER, The Paris Review, fall 1955

A pinch of probability is worth a pound of perhaps.

JAMES THURBER, Lanterns & Lances

Why do you have to be a nonconformist like everybody else?

JAMES THURBER, attributed, Oxymoronica

The dog has got more fun out of Man than Man has got out of the dog, for the clearly demonstrable reason that Man is the more laughable of the two animals.

JAMES THURBER, introduction, The Fireside Book of Dog Stories

Remember laughter. You'll need it even in the blessed isles of Ever After.


Early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead.

JAMES THURBER, "The Shrike and the Chipmunks," The New Yorker, Feb. 18, 1939

She wasn't much to look at but she was something to think about.

JAMES THURBER, Vintage Thurber

Laughter need not be cut out of anything, since it improves everything.

JAMES THURBER, Selected Letters of James Thurber

Man has gone long enough, or even too long, without being man enough to face the simple truth that the trouble with Man is Man.

JAMES THURBER, Lanterns & Lances

Well, you know it's a nuisance—to have memory like mine—as well as an advantage. It's ... well ... like a whore's top drawer. There's so much else in there that's junk—costume jewelry, unnecessary telephone numbers whose exchanges no longer exist.

JAMES THURBER, The Paris Review, fall 1955

The laughter of man is more terrible than his tears, and takes more forms — hollow, heartless, mirthless, maniacal.

JAMES THURBER, New York Times Magazine, Dec. 7, 1958

But those rare souls whose spirit gets magically into the hearts of men, leave behind them something more real and warmly personal than bodily presence, an ineffable and eternal thing. It is everlasting life touching us as something more than a vague, recondite concept. The sound of a great name dies like an echo; the splendor of fame fades into nothing; but the grace of a fine spirit pervades the places through which it has passed, like the haunting loveliness of mignonette.

JAMES THURBER, "The Book-End," Collecting Himself

Art – the one achievement of man which has made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised.

JAMES THURBER, Collecting Himself

My drawings have been described as pre-intentionalist, meaning that they were finished before the ideas for them had occurred to me. I shall not argue the point.

JAMES THURBER, Life Magazine, Mar. 14, 1960

At forty my faculties may have closed up like flowers at evening, leaving me unable to write my memoirs with a fitting and discreet inaccuracy, or, having written them, unable to carry them to the publisher.

JAMES THURBER, Writings and Drawings

Two is company, four is a party, three is a crowd. One is a wanderer.

JAMES THURBER, Vintage Thurber

A drawing is always dragged down to the level of its caption.

JAMES THURBER, The New Yorker, Aug. 2, 1930

When all things are equal, translucence in writing is more effective than transparency, just as glow is more revealing than glare.

JAMES THURBER, The New Yorker, 1959

I never quite know when I'm not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, "Dammit, Thurber, stop writing." She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph. Or my daughter will look up from the dinner table and ask, "Is he sick?" "No," my wife says, "he's writing something." I have to do it that way on account of my eyes. I still write occasionally—in the proper sense of the word—using black crayon on yellow paper and getting perhaps twenty words to the page. My usual method, though, is to spend the mornings turning over the text in my mind. Then in the afternoon, between two and five, I call in a secretary and dictate to her. I can do about two thousand words. It took me about ten years to learn.

JAMES THURBER, The Paris Review, fall 1955

Mutual suspicions of mental inadequacy are common during the first year of any marriage.

JAMES THURBER, Is Sex Necessary?

There are two kinds of light — the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.

JAMES THURBER, Lanterns and Lances

It is better to have loafed and lost, than never to have loafed at all.

JAMES THURBER, "The Courtship of Arthur and Al," The New Yorker, Aug. 26, 1939

If I have sometimes seemed to make fun of Woman, I assure you it has only been for the purpose of egging her on.

JAMES THURBER, "The Duchess and the Bugs," Lanterns & Lances

Time is for dragonflies and angels. The former live too little and the latter live too long.

JAMES THURBER, The 13 Clocks

In the pathways between office and home and home and the houses of settled people there are always, ready to snap at you, the little perils of routine living, but there is no escape in the unplanned tangent, the sudden turn.

JAMES THURBER, My Life and Hard Times

I have the reputation for having read all of Henry James. Which would argue a misspent youth and middle age.

JAMES THURBER, The Paris Review, fall 1955

I loathe the expression "What makes him tick." It is the American mind, looking for simple and singular solutions, that uses the foolish expression. A person not only ticks, he also chimes and strikes the hour, falls and breaks and has to be put together again, and sometimes stops like an electric clock in a thunderstorm.

JAMES THURBER, Selected Letters of James Thurber

I don't remember any blue poodles.


With 60 staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and a definite hardening of the paragraphs.

JAMES THURBER, New York Post, Jun. 30, 1955

The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people — that is, people everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true nature.

JAMES THURBER, interview, Small World, Mar. 25, 1959

The past is an old armchair in the attic, the present an ominous ticking sound, and the future is anybody’s guess.

JAMES THURBER, attributed, Look at the Bees


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