BOOKS: IS EXCESS NECESSARY?

MORE THAN YOU'D EVER WANT TO KNOW ABOUT JAMES THURBER

JAMES THURBER: HIS LIFE AND TIMES BY Harrison Kinney (Holt; $40) was scheduled to come out late last year. But the publisher postponed the date to give reviewers a chance to finish all 1,238 pages. A wise move, but not as effective as editing this mountain of repetition, trivia and undigested research would have been.

Yet blowsy as it is, this biography of the great American humorist has some appeal. Begun as an undergraduate thesis in 1948, it has been the avocation of a lifetime for Kinney, who is a free-lance writer. His children, now grown and gone, have lived with...

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