It's enough to make you want to dig up Art Buchwald as soon as he finally reaches the grave and beat him with his own shin bone (to paraphrase Mark Twain). Though dying of kidney disease, the irascible Buchwald still manages to tickle in his new memoir Too Soon to Say Goodbye. After suffering kidney failure and refusing to undergo dialysis, Buchwald enters a hospice with less than a month to live. But his body isn't quite ready to take the dirt nap. While the rabbi, mystified doctors and weeping relatives wait, Buchwald dictates his living will (cremation, ashes scattered on Martha's Vineyard), plans his memorial service (Carly Simon sings I'll Be Seeing You, Tom Brokaw and Ken Starr deliver eulogies), and pens this book about the dying experience, set in the Requiem typeface, no less. I never knew how many perks were involved, he writes of his nine-months-and-counting death experience. I've enjoyed every moment of it. The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist shamelessly drops the names of an endless parade of dignitaries and celebrities who come to visit (Walter Cronkite, Ethel Kennedy, Ben Bradlee, Mike Wallace) and observes the greeting card industry from a unique vantage point apparently Hallmark hasn't found a hospice equivalent to Get Well. Buchwald is at his best dissecting world events with his surgically precise humor, and in suitably brief vignettes revisiting his childhood in foster care, his career in journalism and his marriage.
As readers hold one long collective breath (the acute kidney disease is now simply chronic) Buchwald also teaches, in true Buchwald fashion, that you should talk to people in hospice like they're really there, and when one person brings a dish you like, ask for the recipe so someone else can make it for you, too.