Monday, March 7, 2016

The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber, Pia Desideria by Philip Jacob Spener, Poor Richard's Almanacks by Benjamin Franklin

The pile of books needing to be reviewed is piling up again so here are brief synopses of three:
The Thurber Carnival

This is a collection of essays that James Thurber wrote for the New Yorker from the thirties and forties.  They each take a portion of life in general, his personal life, fictional characters based on real friends and draw zany, humorous and slightly surreal pictures out of it.

One of his more famous stories is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (nothing like the movie with Ben Stiller I'm told), which is about a hen-pecked husband who copes with the mediocrity of his life by living in a fantasy world where he plays the hero in every scenario. Another is The Catbird Seat where a mild-mannered man acts out of character to persuade his boss that an overbearing co-worker is insane and get her fired.

I must say some of my favorite stories are those that describe the household he grew up in: mother, father, brother, a various assortment of aunts, uncles and a grandfather who still thinks it's the Civil War who sleeps in the attic.  Nutty things always happen, such as slight flooding that, through rumor, is blown out of proportion causing panic through out the town with the masses running south from the inch-high water trickling in from the north side of town.

The Last section includes cartoons that Thurber drew to his poems in addition to other pithy bits of wisdom.
Pia Desideria by Philip Jacob Spener

Spener wrote his treatise on Christian living in 1675 but he might have written it today.  In it he admonishes the Church on not conforming to the world and how much the Christian body has, in fact, rendered itself almost indistinguishable from non believers in how they think, conduct their lives or ignorance of doctrinal truth.  It's a short, readable book and I highly recommend it.,204,203,200_.jpg
Poor Richard's Almanacks by Benjamin Franklin

Franklin wrote a yearly almanack with quotes and stories for each month under the pseudonym of Richard Saunders.  Almanacks were popular in colonial America.  They offered weather forecasts, advice for running a household, puzzles and witticisms. Franklin's almanacks are a funny satire on life in the 18th century and were famous for his wordplays.  Many famous sayings we still know were penned by Franklin in his almanac.  Here are a few:

Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead. 

Lost Time is never found again.

Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.

Franklin started writing his yearly almanacs in 1733 and wrote his last in 1758.  My book is a complete collection of every year. 

An aside, I'm one book away from reading 100 books and I see I have only reviewed a quarter of them.  I'm going to try to rectify that.  Have a good week!


  1. I've heard so many good reviews on Thurber. I've never read him but I should add him to my list.

    Wow, how did you come across Pia Desideria? I'd never heard of it. Perhaps it's comforting to know that if things haven't changed, they haven't become worse? I'm trying to be positive. ;-)

    In any case, thanks again for your reviews and a couple more books to add to my eclectic list!

    1. Hi Cleopatra! You should read Thurber. He's really funny.

      I can't remember which book I read that referred to Pia Desideria, but there are many authors with that title. I read the one written by Spener and I highly recommend it. It's not a very long read but worth it!

  2. This is a very interesting looking group of books.

    I have always wanted to give Poor Richard's Almanac a try. I am very interested in Benjamin Franklin.

    I read The Secret Life of Walter Mitty a long time ago. I remember it being very entertaining. I would like read the remainder of this collection.

    1. HI Brian! I think everyone should Franklin's Almanac because it reveals so much of the origins of the culture of this country, not to mention Franklin's memorable witticisms.

      Thurber is definitely worth a read. He also, since he wrote in the first half of the 20th century provides a window to a bygone time.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.