“No one goes there much anymore”

I didn’t bother linking last week to that Robert Gottlieb piece on James Thurber’s letters. After all, early last month I mentioned Terry Teachout’s thoughtful reaction to the collection. And I myself haven’t been blown away by the Thurber writings I’ve encountered.

Today Jon Carroll writes about the Gottlieb review, and considers the place of Thurber’s work now:

What is interesting, as Gottlieb mentions, is how quickly Thurber’s star has fallen. No one compares him to Mark Twain anymore; no one even compares him to Veronica Geng. He is not taught in schools. The world of his childhood, about which he wrote with such sincere feeling, is now so impossibly far from our own that it might as well be ancient Rome.

Nothing dates as rapidly as humor, and even Twain is now sometimes seen as merely rural and kindly, a foxy grandpa of American letters, ever so much nicer than dour old Herman Melville. Writers as mantel ornaments; it happens….

(Thanks to John Leary for the link.)


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