I can't remember the first time I read any of the work of the great American satirist Art Buchwald who died Wednesday. I think that I probably read some of his stuff at the height of Watergate. I do have an early recollection of seeing his work in a rather unlikely context.
For whatever reason, I was looking at a copy of the daily Hansard for the House of Representatives in the school library, probably around 1974 when I was in Year 10. I can't recall now who it was, but the MP in question was quoting a passage from Buchwald in one of his speeches, one which used biblical phraseology, but alas I can't remember any further.
I can't say that Buchwald has been uppermost in my reading list over the years, which I now realise was my loss. His column was syndicated to The Australian for a time, but it is since the Washington Post has been on the web, and since Bushite politics have become so loopy, that I started reading him with some semblance of frequency.
And then came his column in January 2006 announcing that he was having his dialysis machine awitched off and he was preparing to die. Which, to everyone's astonishment, took a year to happen. As he said last July, "instead of moving upstairs I'm moving to Martha's Vineyard".
His last column bar one (see below), "Zeroing in on a Trillion", was published on January 2, and it takes the piss out of GW Bush, like so much of Buchwald's work in recent times. If you can, try and get to read Buchwald's columns over the past twelve months from the time he had his kidney machine switched off and was getting ready to die. It's a remarkable body of work. Unfortuately the Washington Post archive only goes back to September 21, 2006.
Here is the Washington Post obituary for Buchwald, which also contains links to further reportage on his life and passing.
According to Associated Press, Senator Edward Kennedy has described Buchwald as "the Mark Twain of our time". Stephen Kaus, at the uberblog Huffington Post, described him as the "Maureen Dowd of his day". Make of all that what you will.
Friday's papers will feature the column that Buchwald wrote for posthumous publication. From its penultimate paragraph:
"I know it's very egocentric to believe that someone is put on earth for a reason. In my case, I like to think I was. And after this column appears in the paper following my passing, I would like to think it will either wind up on a cereal box top or be repeated every Thanksgiving Day."