James Thurber’s Columbus was not today’s Columbus—or even yesterday’s. It was a Columbus he both knew and created, a place perched on the fringe of reality and the fringe of his imagination. It is the place Bob Hunter revisits in Thurberville, a book where the author separates truth from fiction and identifies what parts of the famous humorist’s hometown of 180,000 exist in the burgeoning metro area of more than two million today.
Thurber’s Columbus was a wild and crazy place, a city full of fascinating and sometimes peculiar characters, many in his own family. Because of the widespread popularity of his stories, that was also the Columbus that many of his readers around the world came to know.
Thurberville chronicles those characters and explores that world. But it also examines the real city where Thurber struggled and then blossomed as a college student, worked as a newspaper reporter and a press agent, and achieved international fame as a humorist and cartoonist after he left town, in part by writing about the subjects he left behind.
Much of Thurber’s best work was cultivated by experiences Thurber had in Columbus and in his dealings with family, friends, teachers, and acquaintances there. They are worth a revisit and, in some cases, an introduction.