James Thurber Quotes

You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.

James Thurber (The New Yorker - The Owl Who Was God, 1939)

With sixty staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and definite hardening of the paragraphs.

James Thurber (Quoted in the New York Post, 1955)

Laughter need not be cut out of anything, since it improves everything. 

James Thurber (Quoted in Selected letters of James Thurber, 1982)

There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception.

James Thurber

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.

James Thurber (Interview with Edward R. Murrow - Small World, 1959)

He who hesitates is sometimes saved.

James Thurber (The New Yorker - The Glass in the Field, 1939)

There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else.

James Thurber (The New Yorker - The Fairly Intelligent Fly, 1939)

It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.

James Thurber (The New Yorker - The Scotty Who Knew Too Much, 1939)

Love is the strange bewilderment that overtakes one person on account of another person. 

James Thurber (Is Sex Necessary?, 1929)

Early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead.

James Thurber (The New Yorker - The Shrike and the Chipmunks, 1939)

Man is flying too fast for a world that is round. Soon he will catch up with himself in a great rear end collision.

James Thurber (Further Fables for Our Time, 1956)

All men kill the thing they hate, too, unless, of course, it kills them first.

James Thurber (Quoted in Vintage Thurber, 1963)

If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons. 

James Thurber (1935)

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.

James Thurber (Credos and Curios - Carpe Noctem, If You Can, 1962)

Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.

James Thurber (Lanterns and Lances - Foreword, 1961)

The past is an old armchair in the attic, the present an ominous ticking sound, and the future is anybody's guess. 

James Thurber (Letter to Marianna Brown, 1961)

I hate women because they always know where things are.

James Thurber (Let Your Mind Alone!, 1937)

There are two kinds of light - the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.

James Thurber (Lanterns and Lances, 1961)

One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough.

James Thurber (Quoted in Time Magazine, 1960)

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.

James Thurber (Thurber's Dogs, 1955)

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.

James Thurber (Thurber's Dogs, 1955)

The only rules comedy can tolerate are those of taste, and the only limitations those of libel. 

James Thurber (Lanterns and Lances, 1961)

Human Dignity has gleamed only now and then and here and there, in lonely splendor, throughout the ages, a hope of the better men, never an achievement of the majority.

James Thurber (Collecting Himself - Thinking Ourselves Into Trouble, 1939)

The paths of glory at least lead to the grave, but the paths of duty may not get you any where.

James Thurber (Fables for Our Time, 1940)

I can feel a thing I cannot touch and touch a thing I cannot feel. The first is sad and sorry, the second is your heart.

James Thurber (The 13 Clocks)

It is better to have loafed and lost, than never to have loafed at all. 

James Thurber (Fables for Our Time - The Courtship of Arthur and Al, 1940)

The nation that complacently and fearfully allows its artists and writers to become suspected rather than respected is no longer regarded as a nation possessed with humor or depth. 

James Thurber (New York Times Magazine, 1958)

You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.

James Thurber (The New Yorker - The Bear Who Let It Alone, 1939)

Sixty minutes of thinking of any kind is bound to lead to confusion and unhappiness. 

James Thurber

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 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.

James Thurber (Collecting Himself, 1939)

Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation.

James Thurber (The New Yorker - The Grizzly and the Gadgets)

All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.

James Thurber (Further Fables for Our Time - The Crow and the Scarecrow, 1956)

A pinch of probability is worth a pound of perhaps.

James Thurber (Lanterns and Lances, 1961)

Unless artists can remember what it was to be a little boy, they are only half complete as artist and as man.

James Thurber (Quoted in Selected letters of James Thurber, 1982)

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...

James Thurber (Quoted in Selected letters of James Thurber, 1982)

Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?

James Thurber (The New Yorker - A Thunder Carnival, 1937)

Next to reasoning, the greatest handicap to the optimum development of Man lies in the fact that this planet is just barely habitable. Its minimum temperatures are too low, and its maximum temperatures too high. Its day is not long enough, and its night is too long. The disposition of its water and earth is distinctly unfortunate (the existence of the Mediterranean Sea in the place where we find it is perhaps the unhappiest accident in the whole firmament). These factors encourage depression, fear, war, and lack of vitality. They describe a planet, which is by no means perfectly devised for the nurturing or for the perpetuation of a higher intelligence.

James Thurber (Collecting Himself - Thinking Ourselves Into Trouble, 1939)

Every time is a time for comedy in a world of tension that would languish without it.

James Thurber (Lanterns and Lances - Foreword, 1961)

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.

James Thurber

But what is all this fear of and opposition to Oblivion? What is the matter with the soft Darkness, the Dreamless Sleep?

James Thurber

A word to the wise is not sufficient if it doesn't make sense.

James Thurber (The New Yorker - The Weaver and the Worm)

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.

James Thurber (Lanterns and Lances, 1961)

Philosophy offers the rather cold consolation that perhaps we and our planet do not actually exist; religion presents the contradictory and scarcely more comforting thought that we exist but that we cannot hope to get anywhere until we cease to exist. Alcohol, in attempting to resolve the contradiction, produces vivid patterns of Truth which vanish like snow in the morning sun and cannot be recalled; the revelations of poetry are as wonderful as a comet in the skies - and as mysterious. Love, which was once believed to contain the Answer, we now know to be nothing more than an inherited behavior pattern. 

James Thurber (Collecting Himself - Thinking Ourselves Into Trouble, 1939)

Last night I dreamed of a small consolation enjoyed only by the blind: Nobody knows the trouble I've not seen! 

James Thurber

All men kill the thing they hate, too, unless, of course, it kills them first.

James Thurber (Further Fables for Our Time, 1956)

The sanity of the average banquet speaker lasts about two and a half months; at the end of that time he begins to mutter to himself, and calls out in his sleep. 

James Thurber (Collecting Himself, 1939)

Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility. 

James Thurber (My Life and Hard Times, 1933)

The laughter of man is more terrible than his tears, and takes more forms hollow, heartless, mirthless, maniacal.

James Thurber (New York Times Magazine, 1958)

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.

James Thurber (Letter to Malcolm Cowley, 1954)

Women are wiser than men because they know less and understand more.

James Thurber

James Thurber Biography

Born: December 8, 1894
Died: November 2, 1961

James Thurber was an American author, humorist and cartoonist. He is most famous for his various contributions to The New Yorker magazine.

Notable Works

My Life and Hard Times (1933)
The Last Flower
Fables for Our Time
The White Deer
The 13 Clocks
Thurber's Dogs (1955)
A Thurber Carnival (1960)
Lanterns and Lances (1961)
Credo and Curios (1962)