Too Soon to Say Goodbyeby Art Buchwald
Pub. Date: 11/07/2006
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
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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For all logical purposes this book should have not been written. Art Buchwald has lost a leg, his kidneys stopped working, and was sent to a hospice for a two week stay. However, his body would not cooperate and he lived on for several months. He became the in house miracle. Not missing an opportunity to not be the center for attention, Buchwald held court each day in the salon and received guest who brought bounty of food and good conversation. This book chronicles this stay and reflections on his life. The ups and downs and he candidly opens the dialogue about dealing with death and the finality of it. Even though he was way into his eighties, Buchwald still had many good years ahead and the flood of notes and visitors on his final days allowed him to have one finally hurrah. Death is not an easy subject to broach and with his humorous tongue Buchwald allows the reader to peek into what the end is like. Buchwald spends some time in this final memoir sharing his life¿s adventures and the many friends along the way. His days in Paris, his family, and his children mixed in with a few regrets along the way. He goes into detail about his funeral arrangements and in the end includes copies of his eulogies that ironically enough were written and submitted before his transition. In some respects this should be a sad book but Too Soon to Say Goodbye by Art Buchwald is about a life well lived.
What an honest, interesting and full life he led. Art Buchwald will always be remembered for his great sense of humor and his wonderful style of writing. Don't pass up this book -- it's truly a great read. Rest in peace, Art, you'll be sorely missed.