The New York Review of Books is a superb journal, and I have been a long time subscriber. I enjoy their extended book reviews and essays that explore art, politics, government, ethics, and many, many other topics. The library has a subscription at the Williamsburg Library building on Scotland St. if you want to take a look. In addition to publishing the journal though, the NYRB also has been republishing some classic works of literature for both adults and children. It is great to see these books back in print, and last time I was at a library conference I purchased two of my favorites.
The first purchase was The Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber, who has long been one of my favorite writers. Thurber made his name with his witty, though sometimes dark, short fiction and essays as well as with his wonderfully idiosyncratic drawings, many of which found their way into the New Yorker in the magazine’s early days. However, Thurber also wrote some wonderful books for younger readers. Thurber’s joy in language and absurd humor keep these books as fresh and interesting today as when they were first published.
The Thirteen Clocks is a fairy tale, with the standard characters–a fair princess who is enchanted by an evil duke, a handsome young prince in disguise who must complete an onerous task to win the princess’s hand, comical rustics, and a dread monster. What makes this book special is the playfulness that Thurber brings to the story. Only a master of English could move as easily and seamlessly as Thurber does from alliteration to metaphor to rhyme to metonymy in short fashion. It is a pleasure to read this book aloud and to let the words roll off the tongue and into the ear.
Here is a sample, trying reading it out loud.
From the sky came the crying of flies, and the pilgrims leaped over a bleating sheep creeping knee-deep in a sleepy stream, in which swift and slippery snakes slid and slithered silkily, whispering sinful secrets.
So take a turn down the path that leads to the “gloomy castle on the lonely hill” where the cold Duke has frozen time and only true love can break the spell.
Check the WRL catalog for The Thirteen Clocks