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Collected Fables: 125 years of Thurber    by James Thurber order for
Collected Fables
by James Thurber
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2019 (2019)

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

American humorist James Thurber's Collected Fables: 125 years of Thurber (edited by Michael J. Rosen) is a delightful little volume that makes an excellent stocking stuffer (my copy is put aside for my eldest son, who appreciates satire and puns). Each short fable ends with a brief moral.

These 85 parodies of well known allegories are taken from Fables for Our Time and Further Fables for Our Time, with ten that were previously uncollected. They can be read a couple at a time or devoured in one go - it is hard to stop reading.

I enjoyed every one of them, but a few even more than others. The moral of The Little Girl and the Wolf is 'It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.' The feminist in me also enjoyed 'Let us ponder this basic fact about the human: ahead of every man, not behind him, is a woman.'

I found a couple disturbingly relevant to world politics today. The moral of The Owl Who Was God is 'You can fool too many of the people too much of the time', and Many Pigeons ends with 'There comes an end of toil and fun, but idle guesswork's never done. Or: This, alas, is sadly so; folks would rather believe than know.'

Thurber's eye for the absurd is apparent in lines like 'It is better to have loafed and lost than never to have loafed at all.' I could go on, but you'll find your own favorites in these wonderful Collected Fables.

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