The Living Legacy of Art Buchwald

The death of Art Buchwald this morning will touch everyone who knew him in different ways. My brush with the fabled columnist was a brief and long-distance one. In college, when I first started my own love affair with journalism and became a columnist, I wrote to him asking for advice. Sure enough, a few weeks later, in my tiny mailbox at Myles Standish Hall in Boston, I found a letter from him, typed out neatly. I had sent him a few of my clips because at the time I was all about imitating his dialogue-centric style.

He could have told me to stop copying him; could have told me to find my own style and get lost; could have simply not written me back at all. Instead, Buchwald wrote me a warm and encouraging (and funny) note that boosted the wind at my back for years to come. In fact, he and I exchanged several letters and he offered me several valuable nuggets of advice that I used to my advantage for years, until other mentors blessedly came into my life and helped me steer toward the course upon which I currently sail.

So here is my suggestion on this sad day. If you want to memorialize Buchwald, if you want to honor his memory in a positive way, seek out a mentee and help her or him. Return that phone call from a young person seeking advice or a job. Help a teenager find the right path in life. Take time out of your busy schedule and your professional life and bring a thrill to someone who wants to draw from your own experiences. I have tried to do that as often as I can over the past 10 years and every time I do, even when I feel a little bothered by the whole thing, I think of Buchwald, and the joy he brought me when he took the time to respond, and I forge ahead.

No, of course I'm no Art Buchwald. I never will be. And I don't pretend to think that my responses to mentees offer the same sort of glee that his did to me. But of all the many lessons he taught me, the notion of sharing wisdom and experience with those who seek it out is perhaps one of the most poignant. The man lived a life any of us would have envied. But he didn't hoard it. He shared it. And that is just one of the reasons why he is truly one of the greatest and most important storytellers in American history.

By Andrew Cohen |  January 18, 2007; 10:15 AM ET
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That master craftsman of the humorous essay may have gone to his reward--to be with the angels--but he's left us all a treasure trove of laughter to be had, rain or shine--on which ever side of life's street we're on. In this "vale of tears" there's laughter to be had, he says. And for those who've underestimated his art, tune in to his memoir "Leaving Home" (1993). He made making us laugh look "easy." And we'll go on laughing, thanks to him. You can be sure he's just been welcomed to 'the club' by Thurber and Benchley.

Posted by: Richard Harsham | January 18, 2007 01:37 PM

Art was truly a genius amongst us. His humor and infectious smile and great dignity will be sorely missed. God Bless him and he certainly left this world in a better place then when he found it.

Posted by: James | January 18, 2007 01:39 PM

He could look at any issue and instantly see the core of it. Then with just a few words an a little joke he made us see it as well. Truly a creator. And we had him all to ourselves. We'll miss him.

Posted by: Anagadir | January 18, 2007 01:59 PM

I thought Buchwald at his peak during the Vietnam War. Every time the official rationale for the war changed, Buchwald would convene a squad for a Troop Information class (old soldiers will remember the term, later changed to Command Information) to explain why the new rationale was in and the old ones were out. Buchwald had been a soldier so he had the knack and the lingo. Hilarious! I always wished he'd go back to that line for this war

Posted by: james | January 18, 2007 02:17 PM

As usual I was checking an E mail from the Washington Post and there was one with opinions - right away I was hoping that it would be a column from Art Buchwald, that has been my first reaction to an 'opinion' E mail ever since I have been receiving this particular kind of E mail.
I felt so sad upon hearing that he had died. He always would add a chuckle and usually more than one to my life. No matter how dark world events were he would find the silver lining and did so with such a unique humor. I know that he suffered from depression but he found his own way to deal with his symptoms in a positive and socially responsible way.
At least that is how I see it.
Now that he is gone I will miss his columns and will be forever grateful for the fact that he lived the life that he did live.
Ruth Beazer

Posted by: Ruth Beazer | January 18, 2007 02:35 PM

Perhaps I was dropped on my head as a child, to *get* Buchwald's wit when I was a young elementary school child. Reading his work over a few decades helped teach me to be direct without being cruel and ugly, and damned serious while still able to see irony or humor that lurks in every situation. Thanks for a good time, Art!

Posted by: bigolpoofter | January 18, 2007 03:51 PM

Buchwald said he had little idea of what afterlife would bring. He need not worry. Indeed, he already had the best. Most of us would consider it heaven to write a humor column that others would enjoy. No need for any other reward.

Posted by: Jkoch | January 18, 2007 05:01 PM

A better part of my childhood was spent rushing home after school to read one of his weekly columns about life in Washington and Martha's Vineyard. You'll be missed Mr. Buchwald.

Posted by: Asim Rasheed | January 18, 2007 05:44 PM

Pluging into his theme of taking one subject a day..As he proposed for his
family at breakfast made my life better and easier and then meaningful. Taking on this theme made a lot of sense.
I like others had Ideas of completeness
that is, I knew the answers until then..Thanks for the memories having put my feet on the ground thanks *Art*.

Posted by: n sobel | January 18, 2007 05:45 PM

I could not but reminisce growing up in South India, always was eager to read the "Down the Seine and Up the Potomac with Art Buchwald" published in The Hindu newspaper every week. In fact I looked forward to reading it.
Maybe I was too young to understand the full humour , nevertheless I enjoyed it then as much as I do now.
Thanks Art for the many humorous moments!!!

Posted by: Krishna Prasad | January 18, 2007 06:03 PM

Art Buchwald never stopped teaching us and entertaining us through his gentle humor. His last gem of a book, TOO SOON TO DIE, will provide comfort to all those who face the impending death of a loved one. Art Buchwald was a man who lived a life graced with humor and a man who died with dignity.

Posted by: Karl Helicher | January 18, 2007 06:52 PM

Like Red Smith before him, Art Buchwald was one of a kind: a real original. A born humorist and first-rate storyteller, he was a gift to columnising.

First ran into him while covering the Rome Olympics in 1960 and will never forget the points-score he introduced during the diving events about lecherous Latinos trying to touch the late Bing Crosby's beautiful young wife who was fit enough to be his grand-daughter.

Rest in peace wherever you are, Art: you will be sorely missed by my generation.

Posted by: Vernon Ram | January 18, 2007 08:21 PM

Art's columns were a wonderful respite from an often dark and cynical world. To create humor from distress, and ultimately from one's own demise, is a true talent. What a gift to the reader Art Buchwald was! Rest in peace, Art. You are missed!

Posted by: J Gould | January 18, 2007 08:22 PM

What a sad day yesterday for many many Art Buchwald fans to learn he had died.
I started in journalism in 1960 when my former classmate and The AP's late great Michael Goldsmith gave me a job as junior newsman. Better than any journalism school.
That's when I *met* Art, checking the day's papers. First the big news, the Herald Trib's funnies. Then look for an Art Buchwald, which was not every day.
The Miles Standish column is a corker.
But does anyone remember -- and know where to locate -- the hilarious *Journalists' Sources* (or title something like that), early-1960's, and written I think from Athens. Official source, usually reliable source and all the others turn out (sic) to be the concierge, taxi driver, cleaning lady, and so on. (FYI I'm on and thanks to tell me).
Art Buchwald you taught us all a hell of a lot, thank you. ends

Posted by: Peter U D, France | January 20, 2007 06:12 AM

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