Friday, January 19, 2007

Say Goodbye to Art Buchwald

Prolific humor writer, Pulitzer-prize winning columnist, and political gadfly, Art Buchwald died Wednesday of kidney failure. For nearly six decades Buchwald wrote satire columns that appeared in more than 500 newspapers all across the country.

Buchwald's father went broke in the Depression and his mother was institutionalized shortly after his birth in 1925. He and his sisters were shuttled between foster homes and the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. He battled bouts of depression most of his life, which he openly wrote about, hoping to help others. He said in a 1994 interview with National Public Radio that "I did discover early in life I could make people laugh. That's what's changed my life, because as long as I could make 'em laugh, I could get a lot of love."

In February 2006, Buchwald decided to forego dialysis and was given 3 weeks to live. He checked into a hospice, planned his funeral, and faced death without flinching, but then, to everyone's surprise, lived for another eleven months He wrote in his newly resumed column that he had to "scrap his funeral plans, rewrite his living will, buy a new cell phone, and get on with his improbable life." His most recent book, Too Soon to Say Goodbye, is about this unexpected last year. The Library has ordered the book, and should be getting copies soon. In the meantime, you can read earlier works such as Leaving Home, a bright, funny and poignant memoir of his early years, or I'll Always Have Paris, which describes Buchwald's Paris years as a member of the Herald Tribune staff during the 1940s and 1950s, hobnobbing with the rich, the famous, and the literary.

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