August 31, 2006

James Thurber

A famous Ohioan born down the road from me was the writer James Thurber. Everytime I hear his name, I am reminded of the line supposedly spoken by innumerable mothers to their sons when they requested a BB gun for Christmas or a birthday,
“No you cannot have a BB gun, you’ll shoot your eye out with it.”

Thurber’s turn toward writing and drawing was probably directly related to the incident when his brother shot him in the eye with an arrow while they were playing ‘William Tell’. He was partially blinded which left him on the sidelines of some games and sports, which in turn it is believed activated his imagination. What was unlucky for Thurber was lucky for us as he left us innumerable writings and drawings.

The other Ohio author I want to mention is Louis Bromfield, born in Mansfield Ohio. Bromfield’s books were extremely popular in the thirties and forties. He wrote prolifically in Paris before returning his family to America when the First World War was about to break out. He bought several run-down farms in a beautiful setting in an area called Pleasant Valley, and had a house built, calling it Malabar Farm. He continued writing best selling books, many of which were turned into movies. THE RAINS CAME, and MRS. PARKINGTON being two of the books turned into movies. He would write the screenplays of his novels for Hollywood. He was a gregarious man who made friends with many of the Hollywood people and invited them to come visit him at Malabar Farm, which they did. He could drink with the best of them. A famous wedding took place at the farm when Humphrey Bogart married Lauren Bacall in the big house as it was called.

Bromfield lived a life that would be envied by many. He was able to live where he wanted, and do what he wanted later in life and that was running the farm and speaking for conservation causes. All of this took plenty of money, so he would head to his typewriter and write another novel. Of course all this ended as all things must, but he had a long run and from all I know of him a hugely satisfying life.

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