Saturday, January 27, 2007

Art Buchwald Made Good Copy

A few days ago Art Buchwald, the American polical satirist, died at the age of 81. I had him in my cab once and, in recalling that ride, I realized there are two things I have taken from him and made my own.

His gloves and his umbrella.

Just kidding. The first was something he said to me in my cab. This ride occurred in December, 1980, and the reason I can remember its exact date is Ronald Reagan had been elected but had not yet been inaugurated. The conversation went something like this...

Me: What are you doing here [in New York City]? Aren't you supposed to be in Washington?

Buchwald: Nah, Washington's dead. Nobody's around 'til the inauguration.

Me: So what do you think of Reagan? Do you think he'll be a good president?

Buchwald: He'll make good copy.

"He'll make good copy." I've been using that phrase to describe anyone or anything that seems promising ever since he said that to me. I know it's a newspaper term that didn't originate with Buchwald, but that's how it got into my mind. I think we usually don't remember how something like this enters our consiousness, but in this case I do. It came from him.

The second thing was a writing thing. After having had this honor of transporting his butt from point A to point B, I started paying more attention to his columns and, in reading them, I came to recognize the basic form that the newspaper essay takes. First, a premise is stated. ("People act strangely when the moon is full.") Second, data is supplied to back up the premise. ("I saw old Jed flying a kite in the middle of the night and he was wearing Spock ears.") And third, the premise is re-stated, perhaps with a humorous twist, to end the essay. ("Yup, people sure do act strange when the moon is full. Excuse me - I've gotta go get my Spock ears back from Jed.")

A well-written essay in a blog uses this same format. It's how a point is made as opposed to wandering off in all directions.

I don't know if he invented this form - he probably didn't - but nevertheless I did gain my understanding of it from him. So that's two things I got from this guy.

And, you know, I do have a collection of gloves and umbrellas that people have left in my cab... hmmmm... does anyone know what size glove Art Buchwald wore?


Mike S said...

He was my favorite & the 1st thing I read every day for many years.

Anonymous said...

Yours is a great blog. Glad to have found it. I'm the founder of a non-profit website called The Remembering Site. We make it easy for anyone, anywhere to write their life stories. I'm posting comments on blogs that have to do with Art Buchwald who just wrote a great memoir, To Soon To Say Goodbye. Please check out his book, and start writing your own biography/memoir at The Remembering Site.

Loui said...

I collect umbrellas too y ou know! I do like especially the ones you get at hotels, you know the great big ones with the hotels name on.
I just kinda forget to give them back!

J xx

Ashiq said...

Interesting stuff, I'll be linking both your blogs to mine. I think other people should check out your blogs too.

Anonymous said...

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