Sunday, December 8, 2013

Something in the Air

James Thurber was born on this day in 1894. In 2007, Sotheby's sold a tension-filled Thurber drawing featuring two contemporary women intruding upon an otherwise all-male saloon, dating it to the "mid-1930's."

In a 1936 letter to Wolcott Gibbs of the New Yorker, Thurber finds himself in the midst of writing a series of casual pieces for the magazine. He notes that these pieces take time and effort, so he hopes Gibbs and the magazine won't reject them as nonchalantly as they reject his drawings. He then singled out this rejected drawing as "one of the best five I ever did".

Did Thurber really rank this piece so highly, or was he playing it up because he liked it but couldn't get it into the New Yorker? Certainly it was no simple task to populate this cartoon with a dozen distinct figures with remarkable body language. The drawing did not appear in print until one full year later in the September 30, 1937 issue of the British magazine Night and Day. (The New Yorker was reportedly somewhat bitter about Thurber's relationship with Night and Day, but I don't see how they could object to the magazine publishing Thurber drawings after the New Yorker had rejected them.)

Anyway, the cartoon is certainly a lively one, although I personally would not rank it amongst my top five, or even top fifty, Thurber drawings.

James Thurber, "There's something in the air here tonight."
Night and Day,
September 30, 1937

Note:  What better time than James Thurber's birthday to review some old blog posts here.

The website for Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio is here.

Some of James Thurber's fabled New Yorker work is in the Condé Nast Store here.

As always, news about James Thurber is on Ink Spill here.

I may not be able to write Thurberesque captions, but I am currently a finalist in the Moment Cartoon Caption Contest. You can read all about it here and vote for a favorite caption here. Hurry, there's not much time left.


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