Kinney, Harrison 1921–

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Kinney, Harrison 1921–

PERSONAL: Born August 16, 1921, in Mars Hill, ME; son of Charles S. (a store owner) and Blanche (Clark) Kinney; married Doris Getsinger, 1952; children: Susan Edith, Barbara Lee, Joanne Leslie, John Harrison. Education: Washington & Lee University, A.B., 1947; Columbia University, M.A., 1949. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Unitarian Universalist.

ADDRESSES: Home—Lexington, VA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Writer. New Yorker, New York, NY, reporter, 1949–54; McCall's, New York, NY, senior editor, 1955–58; International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Armonk, NY, writer, 1960–86; freelance writer, 1986–. Military service: U.S. Army, 1943–46; became captain.

MEMBER: Phi Beta Kappa.


The Lonesome Bear (juvenile), Whittlesey House (New York, NY), 1949.

DaVinci's Last Supper: An Account of the Re-creation, Coward (New York, NY), 1953.

Has Anybody Seen My Father?, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1960.

The Kangaroo in the Attic (juvenile), Whittlesey House, 1960.

James Thurber: His Life and Times, Holt (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor, with Rosemary A. Thurber) The Thurber Letters: The Wit, Wisdom, and Surprising Life of James Thurber, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

Also coauthor of Bronco Charlie of the Pony Express; contributor to numerous periodicals, including the Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Woman's Home Companion, Reader's Digest, Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping, McCall's, and Redbook.

SIDELIGHTS: In 1949 Harrison Kinney interviewed James Thurber, the humorist and "writer of light pieces" for the New Yorker magazine, as part of his master's thesis. He subsequently began to interview friends, family members, and associates of Thurber in order to write a biography of the famous author. In the following decades Kinney wrote books for children and adults, and worked as a journalist (including a stint at the New Yorker) and as a speechwriter for business executives. In 1995, his 1,200-page study of Thurber's career—James Thurber: His Life and Times—finally saw print. "Had its subject been more conventional," wrote John McAleer in the Chicago Tribune, "this biography's long period of gestation might have been hazardous. But Thurber's deceptively simple surface concealed complexities that only painstaking effort could bring to full disclosure."

Kinney's biography of Thurber uncovers many hitherto unknown facts. "Over the course of his two score and seven years of labor," noted Ben Yagoda in the New York Times Book Review, "[Kinney] unearthed what appears to be every relevant written source and spoke to everyone worth speaking to about Thurber." Yagoda asserted that Kinney's biography is noteworthy not only for its size, but also for the insights it offers into Thurber's life-long misogyny. "Kinney demonstrates that a strong strain of misogyny coursed through [Thurber's] conversation and correspondence," Yagoda noted. McAleer asked: "Was Thurber a misogynist? Consider the facts." He then details Thurber's fear of sex, his inability to sustain intimate relationships, and his many portrayals of women as domineering.

Although it reveals some negative facts about Thurber's personality, Kinney's biography also clarifies some periods in the author's life which have until now not been fully understood. Among these periods are Thurber's first years at the New Yorker and his life in the 1950s, when he suffered from continuing ill health. McAleer noted that Kinney's biography shows that when Thurber began his career at the New Yorker, he "actually maximized himself at [editor] Harold Ross' expense." Rivalry among the magazine's staff was intense, as Kinney reveals with an early Thurber cartoon depicting his co-workers glowering angrily at him. Heywood Hale Broun, writing in the Washington Post Book World, commented that "Thurber's love-hate relationship with the New Yorker makes up the most compelling portion of this book." Thurber's later years, when he suffered from blindness and periods of depression, are also presented in a more complete manner than previous accounts have given.

A critic for Publishers Weekly wrote that James Thurber: His Life and Times is a "marvelous biography." The reviewer went on to comment that it is "liberally sprinkled with excerpts from Thurber's letters, conversations, essays and poems, and charmingly illustrated throughout with his cartoons." Broun praised the insight Kinney offers into Thurber's creative processes, and McAleer praised Kinney's "deft handling of friendships, romantic attachments, working relationships, conflicts of personality and personal crises" to provide "access to a mind that learned, by hard necessity, to supplant outer vision with inner vision."

In collaboration with Thurber's daughter Rosemary A. Thurber, Kinney has also edited a collection of Thurber's correspondence, titled The Thurber Letters: The Wit, Wisdom, and Surprising Life of James Thurber. Writing in the New York Times, Janet Maslin noted, "In a fine new anthology that casts light on the unguarded aspects of [Thurber's] life, Thurber's dedication to writing as many as 1,200 letters a year and his astonishing versatility are made clear." Maslin went on to comment that the "editors have put this volume together in exemplary fashion and unearthed some previously unpublished marvels." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the epistolary collection "fulfills its promise of wit and wisdom."



Book, July-August, 2003, Elaine Szewczyk, "You've Got Mail," brief article about The Thurber Letters: The Wit, Wisdom and Surprising Life of James Thurber, p. 26.

Chicago Tribune, December 17, 1995, John McAleer, review of James Thurber: His Life and Times, pp. 1, 9.

Commonweal, October 24, 2003, William H. Pritchard, review of The Thurber Letters, p. 28.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2003, review of The Thurber Letters, p. 791.

Library Journal, April 15, 2003, review of The Thurber Letters, p. 64.

New York Times, July 31, 2003, Janet Maslin, review of The Thurber Letters, p. E8.

New York Times Book Review, December 10, 1995, Ben Yagoda, review of James Thurber, p. 7; August 10, 2003, Terry Teachout, review of The Thurber Letters, p. 7.

Publishers Weekly, October 9, 1995, review of James Thurber, p. 70; May 26, 2003, review of The Thurber Letters, p. 60.

Utne, September-October, 2003, Anjula Razdan, review of The Thurber Letters, p. 40.

Wall Street Journal, August 1, 2003, Jeffrey Burker, review of The Thurber Letters, p. 7.

Washington Post Book World, December 31, 1995, Heywood Hale Broun, review of James Thurber, p. 5.


Harrison Kinney Home Page, (January 5, 2006).