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A clever, wicked duke lives a life so cold that the thirteen clocks in his castle are frozen permanently at ten minutes to five o’clock. He’s so mean and cold that he’s been known to feed people to his geese just for calling his gloves “mittens,” or for having names that begin with X. The only warmth in practically the whole kingdom radiates from the duke’s beautiful niece, the ever-so-sweet Princess Saralinda. Suitors have been coming for ages to bid for the Princess’s hand, but none can ever defeat the tasks the duke sets for them because—and this is why the duke is so wicked and clever—the tasks are impossible. You can’t slay the thorny Boar of Borythorn if there is no thorny Boar of Borythorn, after all. When a prince-in-disguise arrives in town, no one is willing to bet on his chances against the duke’s craftiness. But the prince has a surprising ally—a funny little fellow who calls himself the Golux, talks in riddles, and is never quite sure if the plans he’s made are based on are facts or on something he’s just made up himself. Still, the Golux claims he’s on the side of good, so the prince embarks on madcap adventure filled with old women who cry jewels, spies with names like Hark and Listen, and a miserable monster whose duty it is to snuff out evildoers who have done less evil than they should. It’s the stuff that all good fairy tales and fables are made up, but there’s something quite distinct about The 13 Clocks, and that’s its author, James Thurber (1894-1961), a noted humorist who had a wonderful way with words. Thurber’s witty story reels from poetry to prose and back again, with an occasional stop at joyous nonsense along the way. It’s a truly delightful romp through the wonders of the English language and the good old tradition of happily ever after.
posted Mar 11, 2010 at 10:57PM
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