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Dickens, Thurber, Andersen, London and Perseus

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As far back as I can remember, my mind has always thought and learned by association. My brain fancifully connects things like computer terminals and bus terminals, Indian reservations with plane ticket confirmations, and carpetbaggers with rug stealers. Don’t ask me why, but I think I get bored with ordinary human communications and then lapse into my imaginary fantasy’ association world, finding it much more fascinating than the nightly news, soap operas and talking head yakety-yak cable tabloid shows.

Because my cerebrum delights in working by making bizarre associations, whenever my mind thinks of Charles Dickens, the great English author is filed and classified in a “mental cabinet” along with James Thurber, Hans Christian Andersen, Jack London and the mythical ancient Greek hero, Perseus. All of these personages had to overcome trials, tribulations and adversity. They elevated themselves above grief and ridicule, stayed focused on their goals and were not defeated by an abundance of criticism and rejection.They were motivated by failure.

Charles Dickens’ (1812-1970) father had great financial difficulties. The boy had a rather miserable childhood, and the lad spent much of his time in poorhouses and workhouses. Did poverty overwhelm Charles Dickens? Was his negative environment to blame for an unproductive and fruitless life? No it wasn’t. Dickens retreated into his imaginary world and incisively wrote about the need for social reform in what later became such literary classics such as Oliver Twist and David Copperfield.

James Thurber (1894-1961) ranks as one of America’s most popular humorists. He is most renowned for his short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” a meek, absent-minded hen-pecked’ character who suffers the sharp-tongued ire of a dominant bossy wife.Thurber’s stories and self-drawn cartoons appeared for over thirty years in the New Yorker magazine. James Thurber had been blinded in one eye in a childhood accident, and then he lost vision in his other eye in later life. Despite those hardships, the author still continued his storytelling pursuits and even appeared late in life as himself in a popular Broadway play The Thurber Carnival.

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) was born in a small fishing village in Denmark. (If a last name ends in sen, the person is probably from Denmark; in son, probably from Sweden). At age fourteen Andersen journeyed to Copenhagen to pursue either an acting or writing career. He auditioned as an opera singer, was a humiliating failure and spent the next three years anguishing in abject poverty.

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