When doctors told Art Buchwald that his kidneys were kaput, the renowned humorist declined dialysis and checked into a Washington, D.C., hospice to live out his final days. Months later, “The Man Who Wouldn’t Die” was still there, feeling good, holding court in a nonstop “salon” for his family and dozens of famous friends, and confronting things you usually don’t talk about before you die; he even jokes about them.
Here Buchwald shares not only his remarkable experience–as dozens of old pals from Ethel Kennedy to John Glenn to the Queen of Swaziland join the party–but also his whole wonderful life: his first love, an early brush with death in a foxhole on Eniwetok Atoll, his fourteen champagne years in Paris, fame as a columnist syndicated in hundreds of newspapers, and his incarnation as hospice superstar. Buchwald also shares his sorrows: coping with an absent mother, childhood in a foster home, and separation from his wife, Ann.
He plans his funeral (with a priest, a rabbi, and Billy Graham, to cover all the bases) and strategizes how to land a big obituary in The New York Times (“Make sure no head of state or Nobel Prize winner dies on the same day”). He describes how he and a few of his famous friends finagled cut-rate burial plots on Martha’s Vineyard and how he acquired a Picasso drawing without really trying.
What we have here is a national treasure, the complete Buchwald, uncertain of where the next days or weeks may take him but unfazed by the inevitable, living life to the fullest, with frankness, dignity, and humor.
“[Art Buchwald] has given his friends, their families, and his audiences so many laughs and so much joy through the years that that alone would be an enduring legacy. But Art has never been just about the quick laugh. His humor is a road map to essential truths and insights that might otherwise have eluded us.”
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Art Buchwald was born in Mount Vernon, New York, and raised in Hollis, Queens. After serving as a marine in the Pacific during World War II and attending the University of Southern California, Buchwald left the United States for Paris. There, he landed a job with Variety magazine and began writing his now-legendary columns, syndicated for decades in hundreds of newspapers. He received the Pulitzer Prize for outstanding commentary in 1982 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986. He was the author of thirty-three books, including the New York Times bestseller Leaving Home, a collection of political commentary, Beating Around the Bush, and a memoir, Too Soon to Say Goodbye. Buchwald died in the Winter of 2006.From Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. "Being in the hospice didn't work out exactly as I had planned it," begins Buchwald in what may or may not be his final book. In February 2006, Buchwald was told he would need ongoing dialysis, which he promptly decided to discontinue, moving into a Washington hospice to die on his own terms. What was intended to be a three-week exit for the Pulitzer Prize-winning author turned into months of visitors, rumination and writing. The result is this hilarious, sobering and unconventional study of the issues that accompany the end of life, such as living wills and surrogates, funerals, food and even sex. As he has throughout his career, Buchwald pares down overwhelming topics into manageable steps, gently and with humor, noting that, for instance "the beauty of not dying but expecting to, is that it gives you a chance to say goodbye to everybody," and it's these goodbyes that provide Buchwald with the framework to revisit his storied career-spanning two continents, populated by global luminaries and celebrated with multiple awards. Though entertaining as a talented satirist's retrospective, it's also a valuable primer on how to meet death with bravery and grace, reminding us that "the big question we still have to ask is not where we're going, but what we were doing here in the first place."
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