Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thurber Tonight: The Pet Department (3)


More from "The Pet Department." (Here are the first and second installments.) -- Ken

The Pet Department

Q. My husband's seal will not juggle, although we have tried everything.

A. Most seals will not juggle; I think I have never known one that juggled. Seals balance things, and sometimes toss objects (such as the large ball in your sketch) from one to another. This last will be difficult if your husband has but one seal. I'd try him in plain balancing, beginning with a billiard cue or something. It may be, of course, that he is a non-balancing seal.


Q. We have a fish with ears and wonder if it is valuable.

A. I find no trace in the standard fish books of any fish with ears. Very likely the ears do not belong to the fish, but to some mammal. They look to me like a mammal's ears. It would be pretty hard to say what species of mammal, and almost impossible to determine what particular member of that species. They may merely be hysterical ears, in which case they will go away if you can get the fish's mind on something else.


Q. How would you feel if every time you looked up from your work or anything, there was a horse peering at you from behind something? He prowls about the house at all hours of the day and night. Doesn't seem worried about anything, merely wakeful. What should I do to discourage him?

A. The horse is probably sad. Changing the flowered decorations of your home to something less like open meadows might discourage him, but then I doubt whether it is a good idea to discourage a sad horse. In any case speak to him quietly when he turns up from behind things. Leaping at a horse and crying "Roogie, roogie!" or "Whoosh!" would only result in breakage and bedlam. Of course you might finally get used to having him around, if the house is big enough for both of you.

SUNDAY NIGHT: The Ladies' and Gentlemen's Guide to Modern English Usage: II. Which

THURBER TONIGHT: Check out the series to date


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At 10:14 PM, Blogger woid said...

Ken — This Thurber series is terrific, thanks!

My parents had a copy of "The Thurber Carnival," which I read many times as a kid. It was funny then, and it's still funny. Between Thurber and Perelman, The New Yorker had the two greatest of that era, the Ruth and Gehrig of comic writers. But Perelman's more of a surrealist, while Thurber's little tales about little people are much more down to earth.

I think of Thurber every time I change a light bulb, because of his story of the aunt who believed that electricity would pour out of an empty socket and flood the house.

So — thanks again, keep em coming.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks, Woid!

That memorable character, I find, is actually Thurber's fictionalized mother's mother, who "lived the latter years of her life in the horrible suspicion that electricity was driping invisibly all over the house . . . out of empty sockets if the wall switch had been left on," in "The Car We Had to Push" from My Life and Hard Times.

"The Car We Had to Push" also features probably my favorite Thurber character, the Get-Ready Man -- "a lank and unkempt elderly gentleman with wild eyes and a deep voice who used to go about shouting at people through a megaphone to prepare for the end of the world. 'GET READY! GET READ-Y!' he would bellow. 'THE WORLLLD IS COMING TO AN END!," on one memorable occasion adding an extra dimension to a local performance of King Lear. (I'm hoping we'll get to My Life and Hard Times.)

By the way, I too inherited a copy of The Thurber Carnival, and was surprised to find, as I began work on this series, that I couldn't find it. I always used to scorn it as a poor substitute for the books it poached from, and never mind the previously uncollected material it contained. Both practically and emotionally, I was disoriented enough by the loss that I bought a new copy on eBay, one that even has a dust cover, which our family copy didn't, at least in my time.



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