Interviewing Art Buchwald

Earlier today, NPR’s Diane Rehm hosted a chat over at about her experiences with interviewing Art Buchwald, who, as you know, passed away earlier this week. Some excerpts:

    Minneapolis, Minn.: Did Art ever discuss his bipolar disorder/depression that he shared with Mike Wallace, and how he managed to be so productive despite it?

    Diane Rehm: He did talk about his depression with me. He talked about how serious it was. He talked about his suicidal thoughts. He talked about the fact that Bill Styron, the author, had helped him through those periods of suicidal inclinations. And Mike Wallace called him each and every single night. In other words, his friends came to the fore and it was Wallace and Styron and Buchwald who each had that deep, deep depression. They called each other the “Blues Brothers.” I think it was simply that the blues described their depression.

    It did not stop him except for the period when he was hospitalized. But he was so productive and I think so determined to continue to with his writing that — you know, he wrote his way out of it. And I’m sure at some point he had medication but I have no idea what kind.

    Gaithersburg, Md. It seems like everyone wants to have the last word after they die. President Ford left an embargoed interview, Mr Buchwald left his video message. Is this an example of control freaks going overboard- trying to be the first to define their legacy, or a last chance to tell the truth and not worry about burned bridges? Do you think this will become the norm?

    Diane Rehm: You know, I think everybody handles their dying in different ways and obviously a figure like President Ford who was the president of the United States has a right to leave his own messages but I think each of us looks at the prospect of our own death in very personal ways. Art chose his way; President Ford chose his way. Who knows what others will do.

    Dallas, Tex.: Diane — I want to thank you for your continuing interviews with Mr. Buchwald during his time at hospice and just recently. I had always loved his work, but hearing him embrace his coming fate was a blessing to all of us. It gave me comfort in that I too can follow his example when the time comes. Are my feelings similar to those of others who have sent you their reactions to your recent radio conversations with him?

    Diane Rehm: Absolutely yes. We have received hundreds of messages from listeners who have talked about what an inspiration Art’s facing death has been to them. I think he not only leaves the legacy of his years and years of humor, he leaves a legacy of a thoughtful and honest and open approach to something each and every single one of us faces — the inevitable end. I think that Art did it with such grace and such intelligence and thoughtful expressions that they will benefit all of us.