My Life and Hard Times

MyLifeAndHardTimesMy Life and Hard Times is the 1933 autobiography of James Thurber. It is considered his greatest work as he relates in bewildered deadpan prose the eccentric goings on of his family and the town beyond (Columbus, Ohio).

Characters include the maid who lives in constant fear of being hypnotised; a grandfather who believes that the American Civil War is still going on; a mother who fears electricity is leaking all over the house and Muggs, “The Dog That Bit People”, an Airedale Terrier that had a penchant for biting certain people… including the author.

The book was a best seller and also achieved high critical praise. Russell Baker writing in the New York Times said it was “possibly the shortest and most elegant autobiography ever”. Ogden Nash said it was “just about the best thing I ever read”‘, and Dorothy Parker said “Mad, I don’t say. Genius I grant you.”

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Draft Board Nights

I left the University in June, 1918, but I couldn't get into the army on account of my sight, just as grandfather couldn't get in on account of his age. He applied several times and each time he took off his coat and threatened to whip the men who said he was too old.

University Days

I passed all the other courses that I took at my University, but I could never pass botany. This was because all botany students had to spend several hours a week in a laboratory looking through a microscope at plant cells, and I could never see through a microscope.

More Alarms at Night

One of the incidents that I always think of first when I cast back over my youth is what happened the night that my father "threatened to get Buck." This, as you will see, is not precisely a fair or accurate description of what actually occurred, but it is the way in which I and the other members of my family invariably allude to the occasion.

The Night the Ghost Got In

The ghost that got into our house on the night of November 17, 1915, raised such a hullabaloo of misunderstandings that I am sorry I didn't just let it keep on walking, and go to bed. Its advent caused my mother to throw a shoe through a window of the house next door and ended up with my grandfather shooting a patrolman.

The Day the Dam Broke

My memories of what my family and I went through during the 1913 flood in Ohio I would gladly forget. And yet neither the hardships we endured nor the turmoil and confusion we experienced can alter my feeling toward my native state and city.

The Car We Had to Push

Many autobiographers, among them Lincoln Steffens and Gertrude Atherton, described earthquakes their families have been in. I am unable to do this because my family was never in an earthquake, but we went through a number of things in Columbus that were a great deal like earthquakes.

The Dog That Bit People

Probably no one mem should have as many dogs in his life as I have had, but there was more pleasure than distress in them for me except in the case of an Airedale named Muggs. He gave me more trouble than all the other fifty-four or -five put together, although my moment of keenest embarrassment was the time a Scotch terrier named Jeannie,

The Night The Bed Fell

I suppose that the high-water mark of my youth in Columbus, Ohio, was the night the bed fell on my father. It makes a better recitation (unless, as some friends of mine have said, one has heard it five or six times) than it does a piece of writing, for it is almost necessary to throw furniture around, shake doors, and bark like a dog, to lend the proper atmosphere and verisimilitude to what is admittedly a somewhat incredible tale. Still, it did take place.

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