Better Read Than Dead

By Art Buchwald
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The most important thing about writing a book is having book parties.

This time around, I have had two book parties in my honor in New York.

Ira Harris, a very wealthy party giver, gave me one at the Hotel Regency on Park Avenue.

The cream of New York was there. Everyone except Mayor Bloomberg was expected -- there was a fire in Brooklyn the mayor didn't want to miss.

He sent me his fire commissioner, but it wasn't the same thing.

Ira pretended it didn't matter. What was important was that Liz Smith and Cindy Adams of the New York Post, the entire staff of Vanity Fair and Calvin Trillin of the New Yorker showed up.

Except for the fire in Brooklyn, the party came off without a hitch.

The second party took place in an apartment overlooking Central Park. It was given by my former editor, Phyllis Grann, who was one of the people Ira forgot to invite to his party.

Mike Wallace co-hosted this party to give it extra class.

There was no fire in Brooklyn, but word came that former Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet had just died. Phyllis's husband, a doctor, thought we should call off the party.

Victor told people, "Surely Pinochet did some terrible things to his country, but this is the way South American dictators are."

The caterer had been hired and the hors d'oeuvres were in the icebox.

It was Phyllis's party, and she couldn't care less about what happened in Chile.

The word is out that the parties were smash hits.

People who didn't come are still talking about them.

At both parties, copies of the book were given away.

Random House supplied the books on the assumption that you can't charge money for books at a book party.

After about half an hour, Pinochet's death was forgotten. It was as if it had never happened.

I was the chief beneficiary of the parties. The drinks were on the house, both at the Regency and at Phyllis Grann's. People toasted the book.

Tom Brokaw called it a "movable feast." Larry King said he'd put me on his show. I was featured on CBS's "Sunday Morning."

None of this would have happened if somebody hadn't thought of a book party.

I'm not going to give you the name of my book because that would be cheating, but when I find it is not in the front of Borders and Barnes & Noble stores before Christmas, I go in and personally complain to the managers.

Ira and Phyllis promised they would give me parties for my next book, too. I haven't started it yet. My only fear is that somebody like Pinochet will die the day the book comes out. Writers can't win them all.

2006Tribune Media Services

© 2006 The Washington Post Company