More from and about
Russell Baker
(biographical info at bottom of page)


Life is always walking up to us and saying,
"Come on in, the living's fine," and what do we do?
Back off and take its picture.


By the age of six the average child will have completed the basic American education. . . .From television, the child will have learned how to pick a lock, commit a fairly elaborate bank holdup, prevent wetness all day long, get the laundry twice as white, and kill people with a variety of sophisticated armaments.
The worst thing about the miracle of modern communications is the Pavlovian pressure it places upon everyone to communicate whenever a bell rings.

I worry about people who get born nowadays, because they get born into such tiny families, sometimes into no family at all. When you're the only pea in the pod, your parents are likely to get you confused with the Hope Diamond. And that encourages you to talk too much.
In America, it is sport that is the opiate of the masses.
Life seemed to be an educator's practical joke in which you spent the first half learning and the second half learning that everything you learned in the first half was wrong.
Misery no longer loves company. Nowadays it insists on it.

There is no business like show business, Irving Berlin once proclaimed, and thirty years ago he may have been right, but not anymore. Nowadays almost every business is like show business, including politics, which has become more like show business than show business is.


Happiness is a small and unworthy goal for something as big and
fancy as a whole lifetime, and should be taken in small doses.


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Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress
requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things.


The Government cannot afford to have a country made up entirely
of rich people, because rich people pay so little tax that the
Government would quickly go bankrupt. This is why Government
people always tell us that labor is man's noblest calling.
Government needs labor to pay its upkeep.


An educated person is one who has learned that information
almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often
false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious just dead wrong.

Russell Baker has been charming readers for years with his astute political commentary and biting cerebral wit.  The noted journalist, humorist, essayist, and biographer has written or edited seventeen books, and was the author of the nationally syndicated "Observer" column for the New York Times from 1962 to 1998.  Called by Robert Sherrill of the Washington Post Book World, "the supreme satirist of this half-century," Baker is most famous for turning the daily gossip of most newspapers into the stuff of laugh-out-loud literature.  John Skow, of Time described Baker's work as "funny, but full of the pain and absurdity of the age. . .he can write with a hunting strain of melancholy, with delight, or. . .with shame or outrage."  Baker received his first Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary in 1979, in recognition of his "Observer" column.

"For a look at how we live now. . .Baker has no superiors, and few peers." - Joe Mysak of Spectator

Baker received his second Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for his autobiography, Growing Up (1983).  With a moving mix of humor and sadness, Baker insightfully recounts the struggles he and his mother endured in depression-era Virginia, New Jersey, and Baltimore after his father passed away.  The book's greatest achievement is Baker's portrayal of his mother, a driven woman haunted by poverty and dreams of her son's success.  "I would make something of myself," he wrote, "and if I lacked the grit to do it, well then she would make me make something of myself."  Mary Lee Settle of the Los Angeles Times Book Review called Growing Up, "a wondrous book, funny, sad, and strong. . .(with scenes) "as funny and touching as Mark Twain's."  Jonathan Yardley of Washington Post Book World declared that "Baker has accomplished the memoirist's task:  to find shape and meaning in his own life, and to make it interesting and pertinent to the reader.  In lovely, haunting prose, he has told a story that is deeply in the American grain."

In addition to his regular column and numerous books, Baker has also edited the anthologies, The Norton Book of Light Verse (1986) and Russell Baker's Book of American Humor (1993).  Since 1993, he has been the regular host of the PBS television series, Masterpiece Theatre.  Baker is a regular contributor to national periodicals such as The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Saturday Evening Post, and McCalls.  One of his columns, How to Hypnotize Yourself into Forgetting the Vietnam War, was dramatized and filmed by Eli Wallach for PBS.



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