Today’s book review of a single short story from a collection is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.
Synopsis: Walter Mitty is an ordinary man living an ordinary life. But he has dreams – vivid, extraordinary daydreams – in which the life he leads is one of excitement and even adventure, in which he – a weary, put upon middle-aged man – is the hero of his own story. A man can dream, can’t he? The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the fourth of this nineteen-story collection.
About the Author: James Thurber was born in 1894 at Columbus, Ohio, where, as he once said, so many awful things happened to him. After university (Ohio State) he worked at the American Embassy in Paris from 1918 to 1920, and then turned to journalism. From 1927 onwards he was on the staff of the New Yorker, and first published much of his work in it. He died in New York in 1961, and is today recognised as one of America’s greatest twentieth-century humourists.
This collection is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-Life-Walter-Mitty-film-ebook/dp/B00H7O86Z8 and http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Life-Walter-Mitty-film-ebook/dp/B00H7O86Z8.
This story, according to http://metro.co.uk/2013/12/18/the-secret-life-of-walter-mitty-a-tale-of-two-trailers-4235036 is just 2,000 words (six pages on my Kindle), and as all short stories should, it starts with the action.
With my editor’s hat on, the formatting leaves something to be desired (there should be new lines every time a different character speaks as this, despite being so short, made it quite tiring reading), and there are other aspects I would have tweaked (e.g. removed the tell of ‘with shocked astonishment’ and replaced with a show – his facial expression).
It’s a shame this isn’t video because I had shocked astonishment when we returned to normality to find that Walter is married (and to a wimp of a wife) – the film version starts with him compiling a dating profile (and yes, he’s most definitely single). Knowing that difference, I suspected that the rest of the story – other than the ‘zoning out’, or as the book wife’s version says, “tensed up” – would be very different. If Walter’s name hadn’t have been the same, I would have thought they were two short stories (by different authors) so in a way it was doubly enjoyable because I didn’t know what to expect (unlike Alice Sebold’s ‘Lovely Bones’ who’s film adaptation was almost exactly the same as the book – I’d experienced them just a week apart so the book was still fresh in my mind), especially as one of the film’s main themes is his attempts at getting together with (and impressing) the love of his life.
Like the film, there were many moments of humour, especially the pocketa-pocketa-pocketa sound effects (which later became pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep. The ‘zoning out / tensing up’, although different experiences in each format, were both of an ordinary man imagining he is doing extraordinary things which makes this story so charming. I still had the smile when the story ended.
Conclusion: Vision vs words
I saw this film twice, I liked it so much and although quite a few short stories have been made into films (Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain and Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption to name just two), I was really surprised how different these versions were to each other. I found out when looking for a picture that there was also a 1947 version starring Danny Kaye. Definitely something to look out for.
Wikipedia explains: Walter Mitty is a fictional character in James Thurber‘s short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty“, first published in The New Yorker on March 18, 1939, and in book form in My World and Welcome to It in 1942. Thurber loosely based the character on his friend, Walter Mithoff*. It was made into a film in 1947, with a remake directed by and starring Ben Stiller released in 2013. *possibly why Kristen Wiig’s character is ‘Cheryl Melhoff’.
As mentioned above, this is just one of nineteen stories and I will, at some stage, be reading the rest of the collection, and reviewing it on this blog. I look forward to it.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (only losing a point for the formatting)
Screen shot picture courtesy of http://www.screendaily.com/reviews/the-latest/the-secret-life-of-walter-mitty/5062189.article. The hair on the left, by the way, is John Lennon’s.
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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