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Art of humour

Very few writers have dominated the world of writing and humour the way Art Buchwald did for over half a century. Pulling himself up by the bootstraps from an impoverished childhood in foster homes, writes PP Wangchuk.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2007 00:26 IST

Dear AB (Art Buchwald), as I always referred to you in my thoughts, you left quietly minutes after you told everyone that you never felt better and happier. Now you are back by the side of your wife Anne.

My association with you goes back over three decades. Your 30 books are the only wealth I can claim I possess. If only I could have added to my collection. We will now never get enough of you.

Last November, your book Too Soon to Say Goodbye hit the stands. You expressed the desire to live till 95 because you felt and wrote, in a column written for publication after your death, “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.”

Very few writers have dominated the world of writing and humour the way you did for over half a century. Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps from an impoverished childhood in foster homes, you strode the literary world like a colossus. You walked among giants like Mark Twain and Will Rogers.

Your very essence was imbued with humour and satire and it infused all your work. But you wanted to be known more as a serious writer than a humourist. The problem, you said, was that nobody took you seriously as long as you were a satirist. You worked very hard to cast off this image and finally succeeded when your two books, Leaving Home (1993) and I’ll Always have Paris! (1996) were published.

These were a collection of your memoirs tracing your journey from deprived childhood days to the saloons of the rich and the famous. After these masterpieces came out, you were contented and you took pleasure in declaring in no uncertain terms that the world had now known your more serious and sober side.

Once that was achieved, there was no looking back for you. You started writing about your bouts of mental instability with a frankness which endeared you to millions of readers. You had a hereditary problem of depression from your parents. You suffered from acute depressive attacks in 1963 and in 1987. Both these episodes nearly drove you to suicide.

And yet you never lost your sense of humour. Once you told your admirers that if you had a third attack, you would “get the distinction of being inducted into the Bipolar Hall of Fame”. The world would freely and happily give you the pride of place in its Hall of Fame. Here’s to eternal happiness in that great humour gallery in the sky.