It feels a special privilege to read a pre-publication pdf of a book before the rest of the world opens its pages. In this case, pure joy to fall into Michael Hill’s marvel of a biography of the inimitable Art Buchwald. Like so many Washingtonians, Art was my friend. Art was everyone’s friend; adored in every place he called his home. Of course, his smart, acerbic, witty take on life found in his writing and his inexhaustible humor won him a global audience, but it was his deep humanity that garnered lasting loyalty.
Art was a complicated man. Michael Hill traces this life from his beginnings as an abandoned boy, left in an orphanage who ultimately spent a childhood in 7 different foster homes. That boy grew up to launch a career in Paris, landing with the Harold Tribune, cavorting with the names that now linger in our cinematic and literary memory: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn to Janet Flanner, James Thurber, Somerset Maugham, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. Funny Business follows Buchwald’s life as he marries his equally independent and wonderful Ann, adopts three children from three different countries, and makes a momentous move back to the United States, landing in Washington at the height of the sense of hope and new wonder with the young President and Mrs. Kennedy.
Art Buchwald was a life that lit up Washington, becoming one of its most beloved and venerable characters. A life not untouched by sorrows. Later in life, he found the determination and courage to allow others into his journey with darkness, writing about his depression. With this move, he changed worlds. He gave hope to others struggling to keep their spirits and hopes alive.
As Michael Hill points out, the key to understanding the particular humor of Art Buchwald, in Art’s own words, was to “treat light subjects seriously and serious subjects lightly.”
I found my friend in these pages. Brought to marvelous life, full of the complexities and deep heart and humor that made Art Buchwald a one-off, and the most memorable man. I loved this book as I loved the man.