In 1949, James Thurber was nearly completely blind, and behind schedule on a book. He headed to Bermuda, in hopes that the change of scenery would encourage him to get some work done. Instead, by his own account, he found himself thinking of an evil Duke, a lovely princess, and thirteen clocks. Calling it “an example of escapism and self-indulgence,” Thurber grew obsessed with the book, tinkering and tinkering and tinkering again, until—again in his own words:
In the end they took the book away from me, on the ground that it was finished and that I was just having fun tinkering with clocks and running up and down secret stairs. They had me there.
The result, The 13 Clocks, would be one of his most striking works: something between a fairy tale and a fable, a story and a poem, but always, always, magical.