Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1894, just seven years after my maternal grandfather was born in Hamilton, Ohio. Both attended Ohio State University at approximately the same time. Did their paths cross there? Probably not--Ohio State was a big school, even in the early 20th century--but that Ohio boyhood gave Thurber great inspiration for some of his best stories. (Not, apparently, for my grandfather; all of his best stories were from the American West and his days as a cavalry captain during World War I warding off Pancho Villa's raids into Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona border towns.)
Although Thurber spent his adult life rooted in New York City as a writer for The New Yorker, he never forgot his Midwestern experiences. But he was no mere nostalgic writer; rather, he combined his keen observational powers with his finely honed writing skills to produce some of the 20th century's grandest "current events" essays. Writing was everything for Thurber. When he was hospitalized for an operation to save his failing eyesight, Thurber told his friend and editor, Harold Ross, "If I can't write, I can't breathe." Even after he was declared legally blind, Thurber kept writing. When you have something to say, you say it. We are fortunate indeed to have had someone of Thurber's talents saying it.
MPL Indiana Room Librarian