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Letter from America, 1946-2004
Synopses & Reviews
For over half a century, Alistair Cooke entertained and informed millions of listeners around the world in his weekly BBC radio program Letter from America. An outstanding observer of the American scene, he became one of the worlds best-loved broadcasters, and a foreigner who helped Americans better understand themselves.
Here, in print for the first time, is a collection of Cookes finest reports that celebrates the inimitable style of this wise and avuncular reporter. Beginning with his first letter in 1946, a powerful description of American GIs returning home, and ending with his last broadcast in February 2004, in which he expressed his views on the United States presidential campaign, the collection captures Cookes unique voice and gift for telling stories.
Gathered in this volume are encounters with the many presidents Cooke knew, from Roosevelt to Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush, both Senior and Junior. His friends are warmly recollected–among them Leonard Bernstein, Philip Larkin, Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, and Katharine Hepburn. We observe a variety of political landmarks–the Vietnam War, Watergate, Cookes remarkable eyewitness account of Robert Kennedys assassination, through to the scandals that surrounded Clinton and the conflict in Iraq. His moving evocation of the events of September 11 and its aftermath remains essential reading, while his recollections of holidays and sporting events remind us of Cookes delight in the pleasures of everyday life.
Imbued with Alistair Cookes good humor, elegance, and understanding, Letter from America, 19462004 is a captivating insight into the heart of a nation and a fitting tribute to the man who was for so many the most reassuring voice of our times.
"Erudite, dry, calm, utterly confident. Such was the voice that millions of Americans were familiar with when Alistair Cooke (1908 — 2004) hosted PBS's Masterpiece Theatre. What those millions might not have known was that Cooke broadcast a weekly radio essay, Letter from America, on the BBC. These pieces showcased Cooke's hard-eyed impressions of the American scene, its players and victims, its edges and contours, its movers, shakers and fools. In this tightly edited collection of those essays, Cooke's voice is present throughout, his mid-Atlantic inflection indelibly stamped. A journalist by trade, an aristocrat by aspiration, Cooke lived and reported from New York, covering the U.S.'s rise to global superpower. Some of the early essays have a fish-out-of-water tone, and the writing is at times claustrophobic, hemmed in by language better suited to a London gentlemen's club than the rough and tumble of bursting-at-the-seams postwar New York. As the years pass, the writing becomes looser, more New World than Old. Cooke's politics turn more conservative; he idolizes Reagan and looks dimly at the unkempt Democrats. He frets about the future of America, never more so than in the wake of 9/11. Still, throughout, Cooke feeds on the unfettered optimism of his adopted country. Never glib, snide or contrived, Cooke captures the expanding soul of a nation and people. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Alistair Cooke presents highlights from his BBC Radio program, "Letter from America," a collection of evocative views of the United States, its people, its triumphs, and its tragedies, from the perspective of a British correspondent.
About the Author
Alistair Cooke enjoyed an extraordinary career in print, radio, and television. Born in Salford, England, in 1908 and educated at Cambridge, Yale, and Harvard, he was the BBCs film critic from 1934 to 1937. He then returned to America and became a U.S. citizen in 1941. Cooke was The Guardians Chief American Correspondent for twenty-five years and was the host of groundbreaking cultural programs on American television and of the BBC series America, which was a huge hit and led to the international best-selling book Alistair Cookes America. Cooke was made an honorary KBE in 1973 for his outstanding contribution to Anglo-American understanding, and received many other awards, including the Peabody Award, the Dimbleby Award, four Emmy Awards, and the Benjamin Franklin Award. He had a passion for films, jazz, and golf, and was a talented pianist.
Alistair Cooke was, however, best known at home and abroad for his weekly BBC broadcast Letter from America, which reported on fifty-eight years of American life, was heard in more than five continents, and totaled 2,869 broadcasts before his retirement in February 2004. He wrote most of the scripts for Letter from America on an ancient Royal typewriter in his New York apartment overlooking Central Park, where he raised his family and lived with his wife, Jane White, until his death on March 30, 2004.
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