Picks and Pans Review: While Reagan Slept

updated 11/07/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/07/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Art Buchwald

As he demonstrates in his current collection of columns (Congdon & Weed, $14.95), Baker, the New York Times' syndicated columnist, often sees the foibles of today's world in terms of people he knows. His friendly rival Buchwald (Putnam, $14.95), whose column appears in the Washington Post and a couple of hundred other newspapers, deals with more cosmic material—politics, world affairs—but treats it as the stuff of broad comedy. Both Russell and Buchwald have practiced the art of the 350-word essay for so long that they probably know the form better than anyone else. They're both consistently amusing, even if neither one of these volumes is the sort that a reader is going to sit down and read right through. Baker's columns, because he is the more self-conscious, less topical writer, produce essays that work better in a book. He drops wonderful lines; of a grandchild, he muses, "Don't you think he's a little young to be eating Sex After 80? " Buchwald, of course, spends a lot of time commenting on the President. The 19 columns about President Reagan in his book are grouped under the title "Bonzo in the White House." But Buchwald also takes delightful swipes at economists, the CIA, psychiatrists, the French, James Watt, the EPA, Love Boat, the military and taxes. In an interview with Ma Bell, Buchwald learns from her that "My only desire in life was to reach out and touch someone." So what if Buchwald often seems extreme in his premises. Real life often seems extreme in its premises, too.

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