I had somehow never read The 13 Clocks. I'm not sure why. I read a lot of Thurber as a kid, and I read more as an adult. I read three (including a collection of letters) just when I was blogging books here. And I knew about this one as Thurber writing a Thurberish story of a prince in disguise, a curse, a wicked Duke, a quest, all that sort of thing. And people love it. Neil Gaiman loves it.
I didn't love it. I loved bits of it, mostly individual sentences, but I didn't really love the thing in itself. I'm not sure why.
Digression: I have recently started using the phrase curate's egg a lot. Do y'all know the phrase? It's from a Punch cartoon titled True Humility in which a humble curate, at tea with his bishop, assures his reverend boss that parts of his egg are excellent. When I call something a curate's egg, I'm saying that there were good bits, but that it didn't quite work as a whole thing. I don't know if I've been saying it frequently of late because I have been seeing and reading an unusual amount of stuff that doesn't quite work for me, or because I have been finding an unusual amount of excellent parts in the usual rubbish I come across. End Digression.
Maybe the reason I didn't love it was its adherence to the gender roles of This Kind Of Thing. As a child of the women's-lib 70s, and as a father in the 21st Century, I have grown used to these stories subverting those gender roles. The maiden's total lack of agency (or indeed entity) seemed like a hole in the book, and the overwhelming masculinity of the village made me sigh a bit. That may have been enough to put me in the wrong mood to be charmed. And loving something like this is just not as likely if you're in the wrong mood. Ah, well.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,