Grandma's Tales

January 25, 2007

Buchwald and the art of writing

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:59 pm

Art Buchwald who kept us chuckling for decades is no more. Wherever he was published, his column was the first thing you read when you flipped through the pages. Why?
[1] His pieces were short.
[2] His style was simple – you didn’t have to google to find out what he was referrring to.
[3] He wrote with humour. Nothing was so sacred that he wouldn’t dip it in humour ink. [4] He picked his subjects from what was happening around him. Politics was staple fare and he loved lampooning politicians. Who doesn’t, but we all can’t be Art, can we?
“Dying is easy, parking is difficult,” he said. When he outlived the time given by doctors, he wrote, “I didn’t know death was so much fun.” He said that he had to scrap his funeral plans, rewrite his living will, buy a new cell phone and get on with his improbable life. “I also had to start worrying about Bush again,” he deadpanned.
Art Buchwald wrote for 50 years. He wrote nearly 8000 columns and 30 books. The movie “Coming to America” was based on his short story. He just wrote and wrote and wrote… Some quotes:
[1] People are broad-minded. They’ll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn’t drive, there’s something wrong with him.
[2] The buffalo isn’t as dangerous as everyone makes him out to be. Statistics prove that in the United States more Americans are killed in automobile accidents than are killed by buffalo.

[3] “If you attack the establishment long enough and hard enough, they will make you a member of it.”
“People ask what I am really trying to do with humour. The answer is, ’I’m getting even.’ … For me, being funny is the best revenge.”
[5] Service in the Marines taught Buchwald a fundamental lesson – “that the secret of a long life was to keep my mouth shut and never, ever, volunteer for a better assignment”
The least you can do to his memory is to avoid mistakes when you mourn his death in print.
One “letter to the editor” went like this:
In 1964, a friend took me to the apartment of the mother of Arthur Godfrey. There we not only met Arthur Godfrey but also Buchwald.
Dear writer of letter,
You not only “met” AG, but what else did you do to him? If your intention is to say that you met two people, your sentence should read, “There we met not only Arthur Godfrey but also Buchwald.” This means you met two people.
Buchwald, I’m sure, would have taken a crack at it.


  1. I got hooked on to Buchwald while in the school. Though the political points that he made were many times difficult to relate to, his points on language and the expressions were a pleasure to read. Sad, we will miss him. He was hard on politicians, especially Washingtom politicians. I wish we had one Arch Buchwald in India.

    Comment by Rajesh Kumar — January 29, 2007 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

  2. That’s the hallmark of great writing, Rajesh. We didn’t always relate fully to what he was saying, but enjoyed reading him anyway. Very few people can touch us like that through words. Even fewer can claim the educated following he had. Sure, he will be missed.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — January 29, 2007 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

  3. He was a difference. most of the journalists criticise governament to cash their pen-price. In sub-continent generally and in Pakistan especially, we have penalty of them. buchwald remained a difference.
    May God his soul in rest and peace.

    Comment by Mudasser Awais — April 18, 2007 @ 3:00 pm | Reply

  4. Hi Mudasser, thanks for stopping by. Yes, Buchwald was unique, wasn’t he? The very fact that he was appreciated in the sub-continent shows the universality of his writing! It is not what he said (though they were important) as much as how he said it!

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — April 21, 2007 @ 4:49 pm | Reply

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