Buchwald in Paris

October 20: The American 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 he managed to turn his lifestyle into the popular column, "Paris After Dark," published in the European edition of the New York Herald Tribune for thirteen years. In I'll Always Have Paris, his second, 1996 volume of memoirs, Buchwald amusingly recalls going to a reading at a Left Bank bookstore with Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, "two of the funniest people in Paris in the early fifties":

Forty or fifty people were in attendance. Another poet was reading his own work. Ginsberg was outraged, and yelled, "That isn't poetry." Someone yelled back, "What's your definition of poetry?" Ginsberg stripped off all his clothes and recited his poetry naked.

Buchwald partied with Thurber, bumped into Hemingway occasionally, and was witness to his own moveable feast:

A French bread scene I'll always remember is the time I watched 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 leaned forward and began to break off and eat his loaf of bread.

Hemingway was the inspiration for a number of escapade-articles. Buchwald went big-game hunting in Africa on the premise "that no one could be considered a serious writer anymore unless he had hired a white hunter and had killed a beast whose head he could hang in his library." He went to Pamplona on a similar premise, running with the bulls, in a group that included Ginsberg, Corso, George Plimpton, and Peter Matthiessen. They stayed up all night, eating and drinking from leather botas and talking "fluent Hemingway." The running was good, as was the après-bull:

Our women admirers were so proud of us they toasted us from the same wine sacs, holding them above their heads and letting the wine pour down their beautiful throats. For some of us this was a bigger turn-on than reading For Whom the Bell Tolls in a sleeping 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.

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