Posted: 2017-10-12 18:23
In one cartoon, a tall, dominating woman says to her spouse, a short. pudgy man puffing nervously on a cigar,"When I realize that I once actually loved you, I go cold all over." In another, a wild-haired woman with a gun asks her startled neighbors if they have cartridges. In still another, a henpecked man says to his wife, "With you I''ve known peace, Lida, and now you tell me you''re going crazy." Invariably, the men in his cartoons are meek, small, balding, and blobby looking. The woman are bigger blobs, but larger, self-confident, and assertive to the point of ferocity.
&ldquo ... These are strange people that Mr. Thurber has turned loose upon us. They seem to fall into three classes &ndash the playful, the defeated, and the ferocious. All of them have the outer semblance of unbaked cookies: the women are of a dowdiness so overwhelming that it becomes tremendous style... &ldquo There is about all these characters, even the angry ones, a touching quality. They expect so little of life: they remember the old discouragements and await the new. They are not shrewd people, nor even bright, and we must all be very patient with them. Lambs in a world of wolves, they are, and there is on them a protracted innocence... &ldquo Of the birds and animals so bewilderingly woven into the lives of the Thurber people it is best to say but little. Those tender puppies, those fair-haired hounds &ndash I think they are hounds &ndash that despondent penguin &ndash one goes all weak with sentiment. No man could have drawn, much less thought of, those creatures unless he felt really right about animals.&rdquo
The book was a big hit and the rest is history.
After dinner, the Thurbers and the Williamses went back to Sinclair Lewis'' room, where they found him fit as the proverbial fiddle and raring to go. Somehow, he had miraculously sobered up. In this upbeat mood, they made themselves at home and proceeded to sing old songs like Sweet Adeline , Let Me Call You Sweetheart , Peg O'' My Heart , and By the Light of the Silvery Moon. Of course, Lewis was playing the part of the perfect host by keeping everybody''s glass full, including his own. The party broke up when he started bawling like a baby as they were singing I Wonder Who''s Kissing Her Now. The last the Thurbers saw of him, tears were streaming down his cheeks. Thurber later wondered if a drink at 7:55 am would be Lewis''s first of the day, or the last of the night.
&ldquo Wolcott Gibbs, during that sad time, once remarked about Jim that he was the nicest guy in the world up to five o&rsquo clock in the afternoon. Gibbs was right. Jim was good until his third drink and then sometimes he became a madman, tempestuous and foul-mouthed. I spent a lot of evenings with him but I didn&rsquo t enjoy them. Jim had it in for women and he was obnoxious about it. He would lash out at the nearest woman and one night the nearest woman was my wife Katharine. I wanted to hit him, but I couldn&rsquo t hit a one-eyed man.&rdquo
Is Sex Necessary? co-authored by James Thurber and E. B. White and published by Harpers became an overnight success. It was on the best-seller lists and received favorable reviews in newspapers across the country. Thurber and his pal Andy White were elated. The two New Yorker writers basked in the limelight. Columbus newspapers were full of pictures and articles about the two hometown celebrities.
The agility and deftness of Thurber''s drawing ability has always been something to marvel at. According to co-workers and friends, he seldom made a mistake or drew an uncertain line. As a matter of fact, he frequently did his cartoon in pen and ink, from beginning to end, with no revisions. The ideas flowed as freely as the ink, many drawn from everyday experiences, but chiefly from the inexplicable pain and frustration he suffered most of his lifetime, a subterranean conflagration that crackled away like a never-ending coal mine fire fueled by his quarrel with the female of the species.
He was quick to pick up on this too. In My Memories of D. H. Lawrence, he kiddingly says that he wrote the famous author of Lady Chatterley''s Lover because he had some ideas on sex that might be of interest to him. Then, in an aside, he continues: "Lawrence never received the letter... because I had... put it in the wrong envelope. He got instead a rather sharp note which I had written... to a psychoanalyst... who had offered to analyze me at half his usual price. The analyst had come across some sketches I had made... I had told him that if he wanted to analyze somebody he had better begin with himself, since it was my opinion there was something the matter with him. As for me, I said, there was nothing the matter with me... I never heard from Lawrence... and I kept hearing from the analyst."