James Thurber explains the New Yorker comma

May 17, 2016

James Thurber’s book The Years with Ross (1959), which recounts the early years of the New Yorker under Harold Ross’s stewardship, has much to recommend it. Thurber fans are likely to have read it already but will not object to revisiting a short passage or two, while those yet to be acquainted may be encouraged to seek it out.

james thurber - the years with ross - new yorkerRecalling dinner one spring evening in 1948, Thurber describes being mostly a spectator while Ross and H. L. Mencken hold court:

The long newspaper experience of the two men, certain of their likes and dislikes, and their high and separate talents as editors formed basis enough for an evening of conversation. They were both great talkers and good listeners, and each wore his best evening vehemence, ornamented with confident conclusions, large generalizations, and dark-blue emphases. . . .

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

James Thurber on writing and rewriting

August 10, 2012

A few lines from James Thurber today: first, on the fun of writing and rewriting:

The act of writing is either something the writer dreads or actually likes, and I actually like it. Even rewriting’s fun. You’re getting somewhere, whether it seems to move or not.

I do think it’s possible to both dread and enjoy the act of writing: these need not be mutually exclusive. And I know writers who are world-class procrastinators because they can’t bear the thought of writing, but who like nothing better once they knuckle down to it.

I also love this description of how Thurber’s act of writing appears to the people around him:

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.’

Both quotations are from ‘The Art of Fiction No. 10’ at the Paris Review.