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Au revoir, Art01/02/2007 - par Mark Tungate
The list of my literary heroes who remain alive is getting shorter. I've noticed that most of them are American (which is odd, considering I'm a Brit) and of course they're all journalists : Hemingway (yes, he was a reporter before he was a novelist), A.J. Liebling, Hunter S. Thompson. All of them shuffled off long ago. The list grew shorter last week with the death of Art Buchwald, the legendary columnist of the International Herald Tribune.
Buchwald was short, plump and bespectacled. But if he looked as charming as his writing, he would have resembled Cary Grant. Just after the war, at the age of 23, he ignored his father's warning (« Nobody makes a living as a writer ») and came to Paris, where he intended to find a French girl who thought he was the greatest writer in the world. He ended up working for the Herald Tribune, where he wrote a column called « Paris After Dark », which turned him into a minor celebrity. His trick was to mingle with everybody from stars to strippers, and occasionally minor royalty, while remaining ordinary - if hilarious.
Like many funny people, Art was a depressive who was dying inside. He described himself as a part-time suicide. His column was a way of laughing at the world's madness. In his very last column, written just before he died, he said he had not discovered the answer to life : but he wished he'd eaten more desserts. Farewell, Art - it was nice reading you.