James Thurber •
My Life and Hard Times •
Thurber’s family may have been perfectly normal people, but it’s his outsize comic portraits of them we remember. The aunt who believed electricity was leaking out of unused light sockets. The brother who made noises like “a despondent beagle.” The cousin who feared he would die of suffocation in his bed if he weren’t waked at regular intervals. The other aunt who threw shoes down the hallway every night to deter burglars. (Apparently nobody got much sleep in this house.) The grandfather who would disappear at intervals and come back days later muttering darkly about recent developments in the Civil War.
They’re all here, as is Thurber himself: unable to see anything through the microscope in biology lab except his own eye. Riding in the family car when a gaggle of kitchen utensils clatters to the pavement beneath, convincing his father that the engine has fallen out. Mentally running through terra cotta, Walla-Walla, bill of lading, vice versa, hoity-toity, Pall Mall, Bodley Head, and Schumann-Heink when he can’t remember the name Perth Amboy during one of those sleepless nights.
If this book doesn’t have you laughing out loud, you might want to check your pulse.