When he was checking out the web to see what attractions we might want to see on the side during PulpFest, Brian Leno spotted a James Thurber house open as a museum in Columbus, Ohio. As I’ve said before, I’ll track down any literary residence for a look — and who doesn’t like Thurber?
Had to go, and we went. If you have the same jones for lit sites and you get to Columbus, don’t miss it — in addition to T-shirts and mugs they sell Thurber Bobblehead dolls. Can’t you just see Robert E. Howard or H. P. Lovecraft Bobbleheads? Zane Grey. Hammett. Hemingway. Kerouac.
(Hey, they’ve Bobbled Kerouac already! I’ll have to check to see how many lit Bobbles have been done — might be a good safety valve for my Collecting Impulse — or it might lead to an epic invasion of the Bobbleheads. . . .)
And if you’re in Columbus specifically for PulpFest, really, what is more Ur Pulp than Thurber’s 1939 short story “The Secret Lives of Walter Mitty”? If the original pulp readers poured through those pages in search of adventure or romance, thrills beyond the grind of the day-to-day — and I think they did — then Thurber summed it up nicely.
Furthermore, when he got back to his homebase in North Dakota, Brian sent a note to report:
Looking through my copy of The Shudder Pulps I ran across a reference to A. A. Wyn and his pulp magazines. Robert Kenneth Jones includes a statement by Frederick C. Davis (of the Operator 5 series) where Davis writes of a woman editor working for Wyn named Helen Wismer.
“Helen was a highly intelligent, very personable young woman who soon left her editorial chair to marry James Thurber.”
“Pretty cool,” Brian said, “one more reason why some of these pulp fanatics should pay a visit to Thurber’s abode.”
(And as I was saying the other day, it was his weird menace or shudder pulp T-shirt that almost got Walker Martin jumped during PulpFest — I wonder if we can put any of the blame on Helen Wismer, sitting at an editorial desk, facilitating nudes being menaced by grotesques, in issue after issue. . . .)
Brian also discovered that Thurber is buried in Columbus in the gigantic expanse of Green Lawn Cemetery. His house is pretty easy to find, his grave was nothing short of brutal. I recommend a GPS device with the co-ordinates plugged in, which we didn’t have — from memory, Thurber is in section M, in the pointy end near the sunken area called The Pit (I think it was — and, no, I’m not trying to drum up a pulp adventure/Walter Mitty vibe here — I think it is called The Pit).
Stand looking toward The Pit and the bird-feeding boxes they have set up for birders. Point with your right arm and you’ll be gesturing toward the arrow-like end of section M. Walk around on the right side. Stay near the driveway. Thurber’s marker is near the base of a tree near the roadway, maybe the second tree in. Right in there.