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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

20. The 13 Clocks by James Thurber



Title: The 13 Clocks
Author: James Thurber
Copyright: 1992
Pages: 128
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Finished: 3-16-09

I'm not quite sure what to make of James Thurber's The 13 Clocks. To be honest, the biggest reason that it caught my eye was the introduction by Neil Gaiman. Then I discovered it was on the 1001 Books list, so I thought that it would be worth picking up. And it was; but I just don't know what to think of it. In his introduction, Gaiman says that The 13 Clocks is one of the best books ever written, or something like that. I have to agree that it is a fun book, but calling it one of the best books ever written I think is stretching it a bit far.

The 13 Clocks is a hard book to label; is it YA? A child's fairy tale? Something written for adults? I can honestly say yes to all these questions. It has just about every aspect of the typical fairy tale present: there is a damsel in distress, an evil duke, a prince who comes to the rescue, impossible tasks, magical creatures, curses and a happily ever after. The Princess Saralinda is something of a captive to her wicked "uncle," the Duke, who is actually not her uncle, but her kidnapper, and who plans to marry her on her 21st birthday. She has had many suitors over the years, but each the Duke gives an impossible task to complete for her hand, or he simply kills them for practically no reason. Along comes the prince, Zorn of Zorna, disguised as a traveling minstrel, who goes on an impossible quest set forth by the Duke. Accompanying Zorn is the Golux, who seems to be something of a wizard, but maybe not, and together they accomplish the task, but just barely. I'm giving nothing away here, as we all know how these fairy tales end, and this particular tale follows in the footsteps of every one before it.

Marc Simont's illustration are very simplistic, but they match the tone and feel of the story perfectly. I found them a fresh accompaniment to the story.

Don't take me the wrong way, I really enjoyed reading The 13 Clocks. Thurber created a fun little story, but I'm just not 100% convinced that it deserves the amounts of praise that has been heaped on it, though.

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