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james thurber Quotes

James Thurber Quotes

Birth Date: 1894-12-08 (Saturday, December 8th, 1894)
Date of Death: 1961-11-02 (Thursday, November 2nd, 1961)



    • All right, have it your way - you heard a seal bark!
    • Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?
    • I love the idea of there being two sexes, don't you?
    • He knows all about art, but he doesn't know what he likes.
    • A burden in the bush is worth two on your hands.
    • It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.
    • There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else.
    • Early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead.
    • You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.
    • You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.
    • Once upon a sunny morning a man who sat in a breakfast nook looked up from his scrambled eggs to see a white unicorn with a golden horn quietly cropping the roses in the garden. The man went up to the bedroom where his wife was still asleep and woke her. 'There's a unicorn in the garden,' he said. 'Eating roses.' She opened one unfriendly eye and looked at him. 'The unicorn is a mythical beast,' she said, and turned her back on him. The man walked slowly downstairs and out into the garden. The unicorn was still there; he was now browsing among the tulips.
    • Don't count your boobies until they are hatched.
    • He who hesitates is sometimes saved.
    • Don't get it right, just get it written.
    • It is better to have loafed and lost, than never to have loafed at all.
    • Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation.
    • Love is blind, but desire just doesn't give a good goddam. (sic)
    • A word to the wise is not sufficient if it doesn't make any sense.
    • All men kill the thing they hate, too, unless, of course, it kills them first.
    • All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.
    • The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa.
    • 'To hell with the handkerchief,' said Walter Mitty scornfully. He took one last drag on his cigarette and snapped it away. Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.
    • 'Who are you?' the minstrel asked. 'I am the Golux,' said the Golux, proudly, 'the only Golux in the world, and not a mere Device.'
    • Boys are perhaps beyond the range of anybody's sure understanding, at least when they are between the ages of eighteen months and ninety years.
    • A pinch of probability is worth a pound of perhaps.
    • Now I am not a cat man, but a dog man, and all felines can tell this at a glance - a sharp, vindictive glance.
    • Man has gone long enough, or even too long, without being man enough to face the simple truth that the trouble with Man is Man.
    • The only rules comedy can tolerate are those of taste, and the only limitations those of libel.
    • Discussion in America means dissent.
    • Somebody has said that woman's place is in the wrong. That's fine. What the wrong needs is a woman's presence and a woman's touch. She is far better equipped than men to set it right.
    • If I have sometimes seemed to make fun of Woman, I assure you it has only been for the purpose of egging her on.
    • Her own mother lived the latter years of her life in the horrible suspicion that electricity was dripping invisibly all over the house.
    • In order to be eligible to play it was necessary for him to keep up in his studies, a very difficult matter, for while he was not dumber than an ox he was not any smarter.
    • I do not have a psychiatrist and I do not want one, for the simple reason that if he listened to me long enough, he might become disturbed.
    • Every time is a time for comedy in a world of tension that would languish without it. But I cannot confine myself to lightness in a period of human life that demands light ... We all know that, as the old adage has it, 'It is later than you think.' ..., but I also say occasionally: 'It is lighter than you think.' In this light let's not look back in anger, or forward in fear, but around in awareness.
    • The dog has got more fun out of Man than Man has got out of the dog, for the clearly demonstrable reason that Man is the more laughable of the two animals.
    • The dog has seldom been successful in pulling Man up to its level of sagacity, but Man has frequently dragged the dog down to his.
    • I am not a dog lover. A dog lover to me means a dog that is in love with another dog.
    • He picked out this sentence in a New Yorker casual of mine: 'After dinner, the men moved into the living room,' and he wanted to know why I, or the editors, had put in the comma. I could explain that one all night. I wrote back that this particular comma was Ross's way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.
    • From now on, I think it is safe to predict, neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party will ever nominate for President a candidate without good looks, stage presence, theatrical delivery, and a sense of timing.
    • A drawing is always dragged down to the level of its caption.
    • But those rare souls whose spirit gets magically into the hearts of men, leave behind them something more real and warmly personal than bodily presence, an ineffable and eternal thing. It is everlasting life touching us as something more than a vague, recondite concept. The sound of a great name dies like an echo; the splendor of fame fades into nothing; but the grace of a fine spirit pervades the places through which it has passed, like the haunting loveliness of mignonette.
    • Sophistication might be described as the ability to cope gracefully with a situation involving the presence of a formidable menace to one's poise and prestige (such as the butler, or the man under the bed - but never the husband).
    • Speed is scarcely the noblest virtue of graphic composition, but it has its curious rewards. There is a sense of getting somewhere fast, which satisfies a native American urge.
    • Comedy has to be done en clair. You can't blunt the edge of wit or the point of satire with obscurity. Try to imagine a famous witty saying that is not immediately clear.
    • With 60 staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and a definite hardening of the paragraphs.
    • The laughter of man is more terrible than his tears, and takes more forms - hollow, heartless, mirthless, maniacal.
    • I always begin at the left with the opening word of the sentence and read toward the right and I recommend this method.
    • When all things are equal, translucence in writing is more effective than transparency, just as glow is more revealing than glare.
    • Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counseling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, 'How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?' and avoid 'How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?'
    • The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people - that is, people everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true nature.
    • We all know that the theater and every play that comes to Broadway have within themselves, like the human being, the seed of self-destruction and the certainty of death. The thing is to see how long the theater, the play, and the human being can last in spite of themselves.
    • If a playwright tried to see eye to eye with everybody, he would get the worst case of strabismus since Hannibal lost an eye trying to count his nineteen elephants during a snowstorm while crossing the Alps.
    • Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.
    • My drawings have been described as pre-intentionalist, meaning that they were finished before the ideas for them had occurred to me. I shall not argue the point.
    • I'm 65 and I guess that puts me in with the geriatrics. But if there were fifteen months in every year, I'd only be 48. That's the trouble with us. We number everything. Take women, for example. I think they deserve to have more than twelve years between the ages of 28 and 40.
    • One (martini) is all right, two is too many, three is not enough.
    • My opposition lies in the fact that offhand answers have little value or grace of expression, and that such oral give and take helps to perpetuate the decline of the English language.
    • The difference between our decadence and the Russians is that while theirs is brutal, ours is apathetic.
    • A lady of forty-seven who had been married twenty-seven years and has six children knows what love really is and once described it for me like this: 'Love is what you've been through with somebody.'
    • Don't let that chip on your shoulder be your only reason for walking erect.
    • A fish is like a dish that floats in the sea but is no greater than me.
    • He was always leaning forward, pushing something invisible ahead of him.
    • Humor is a serious thing. I like to think of it as one of our greatest earliest natural resources, which must be preserved at all cost.
    • Hundreds of hysterical persons must confuse these phenomena with messages from the beyond and take their glory to the bishop rather than the eye doctor.
    • I hate women because they always know where things are.
    • I loathe the expression 'What makes him tick.' It is the American mind, looking for simple and singular solution, that uses the foolish expression. A person not only ticks, he also chimes and strikes the hour, falls and breaks and has to be put together again, and sometimes stops like an electric clock in a thunderstorm.
    • I think that maybe if women and children were in charge we would get somewhere.
    • I used to wake up at 4 A.M. and start sneezing, sometimes for five hours. I tried to find out what sort of allergy I had but finally came to the conclusion that it must be an allergy to consciousness.
    • If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.
    • It had only one fault. It was kind of lousy.
    • Last night I dreamed of a small consolation enjoyed only by the blind: Nobody knows the trouble I've not seen!
    • Laughter need not be cut out of anything, since it improves everything.
    • Let the meek inherit the earth - they have it coming to them.
    • Love is the strange bewilderment that overtakes one person on account of another person.
    • Man is flying too fast for a world that is round. Soon he will catch up with himself in a great rear end collision.
    • No male can beat a female in the long run because they have it over us in sheer, damn longevity.
    • Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that can happen to a man.
    • Ours is a precarious language, as every writer knows, in which the merest shadow line often separates affirmation from negation, sense from nonsense, and one sex from the other.
    • Progress was all right. Only it went on too long.
    • So much has already been written about everything that you can't find out anything about it.
    • Some American writers who have known each other for years have never met in the daytime or when both were sober.
    • The appreciative smile, the chuckle, the soundless mirth, so important to the success of comedy, cannot be understood unless one sits among the audience and feels the warmth created by the quality of laughter that the audience takes home with it.
    • The chill Miss Trent has her men frustrated to a point at which a mortal male would smack her little mouth, so smooth, so firm, so free of nicotine, alcohol and emotion.
    • The most dangerous food is wedding cake.
    • The past is an old armchair in the attic, the present an ominous ticking sound, and the future is anybody's guess.
    • There are two kinds of light - the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.
    • There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception
    • There is something about a poet which leads us to believe that he died, in many cases, as long as 20 years before his birth.
    • Yes, my works lose something in the original.
    • Unless artists can remember what it was to be a little boy, they are only half complete as artist and as man.
    • We all have faults, and mine is being wicked.
    • Why do you have to be a nonconformist like everybody else?
    • Women are wiser than men because they know less and understand more.
    • Never allow a nervous female to have access to a pistol, no matter what you're wearing.
    • Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.
    • james thurber

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