October 20: TheAmerican humorist Art Buchwald was born on this day in 1925. In his twenties,Buchwald dropped out of college and bought a one-way ticket to Paris, where hemanaged to turn his lifestyle into the popular column, “Paris AfterDark,” published in the European edition of the New York Herald Tribune for thirteen years. In I’ll Always Have Paris, his second, 1996volume of memoirs, Buchwald amusingly recalls going to a reading at a Left Bankbookstore with Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, “two of the funniestpeople in Paris in the early fifties”:
Forty or fifty people were in attendance. Another poet wasreading his own work. Ginsberg was outraged, and yelled, “That isn’tpoetry.” Someone yelled back, “What’s your definition ofpoetry?” Ginsberg stripped off all his clothes and recited his poetrynaked.
Buchwald partied with Thurber, bumped into Hemingwayoccasionally, and was witness to his own moveable feast:
A French bread scene I’ll always remember is the time Iwatched a man on a motor scooter with a baguette sticking out of his knapsack.As he stopped at a red light, the man behind him on another scooter leanedforward and began to break off and eat his loaf of bread.
Hemingway was the inspiration for a number ofescapade-articles. Buchwald went big-game hunting in Africa on the premise”that no one could be considered a serious writer anymore unless he hadhired a white hunter and had killed a beast whose head he could hang in hislibrary.” He went to Pamplona on a similar premise, running with thebulls, in a group that included Ginsberg, Corso, George Plimpton, and PeterMatthiessen. They stayed up all night, eating and drinking from leather botas and talking “fluentHemingway.” The running was good, as was the après-bull:
Our women admirers were so proud of us they toasted us fromthe same wine sacs, holding them above their heads and letting the wine pourdown their beautiful throats. For some of us this was a bigger turn-on thanreading For Whom the Bell Tolls in asleeping bag.
“Was it good?” my Scandanavian companion asked.
I told her, “It was very good.”
Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.