Friday, January 19, 2007

For Art's Sake

I cannot let the passing of humor columnist Art Buchwald go unmarked. Buchwald was probably the first humor columnist I ever read, and even as an adult I contined to enjoy his submissions. His wonderful books and columns came despite his battles with bipolar disorder. Yet he could turn his own personal struggles into humor. David Von Drehle remarked in The Washington Post. "For most people, dying is a milestone. For Buchwald, it was fresh material." Buchwald was a true original.

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When I was at work today, in the breakroom I happened across what appeared to be a discarded story printed on computer paper. Being the nosy type, I decided to read it. To my delight, it had the name of one of my former English students at the top. The piece was entitled something like "How I Ended Up on the Cover of a Romance Novel," and was an amusing send-up of both the "literary" genre and the cover art that graces those volumes. I was quite impressed with how far he had come since I had last read his work.

Then I turned to the last page. I have to at least give credit for honesty. In a note in type half the size of the rest of the work, my former student noted that he had actually not written the work, but had only "revised" a story from the humor site "The Onion," inserting his name in strategic places and removing the non-PG parts of the piece. I had fallen victim to the cut-and-paste/sampling culture: Why turn out original work, when you can borrow someone else's? For my money, I'll take the genuine article.

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