A defining collection from Alistair Cooke' s legendary BBC Radio broadcasts guiding us through nearly sixty years of changing life in the United StatesWhen Alistair Cooke retired in February 2004 he was acclaimed as one of the greatest broadcasters of all time. His Letter from America radio series, which began in 1946 and continued every week for fifty-eight years until his retirement, kept the world in touch with what was happening in America. Cooke' s wry, humane and liberal style both informed and entertained his audience. The selection here, made largely by Cooke himself and supplemented by his literary executor, gives us the very best of these legendary broadcasts. It covers key moments from the assassination of Kennedy through to the Vietnam War and Watergate to 9/11, the Iraq War and anticipates the 2004 elections. It includes portraits of the great and the good from Charlie Chaplin to Martin Luther King, Jr, and topics as varied as civil rights, golf, jazz and the changing colours of a New England fall. Each Letter contributes to a captivating portrait of a nation - and of a man.
Cooke had a matchless ability to convey the feelings of the American people at times of great historical importance. Accustomed to hearing these pieces rather than reading them, one is also struck by the quality of Cooke' s writing. His command of language and sharp eye for physical description shine in this collection as do his sense of humour and deep emotional sensitivity. In its perspective on the United States in the latter half of the 20th century, this is as insightful a history book as you are likely to find. Much more than that, it is a fitting record of an erudite, much loved man. -- Piers Moore Ede * Times Literary Supplement * No one else succeeded in explaining to the English-speaking world . . . the idiosyncrasies of a country at once so familiar, and yet so utterly foreign * Independent * There is never going to be anyone else like Cooke, a chronicler of amazing times * Daily Telegraph * Cooke was the special relationship * Daily Mail * The range of Cooke' s experiences was awesome but he always had the personal touch -- Jeremy Vine
Alistair Cooke (1908-2004) enjoyed an extraordinary life in print, radio and television. Born in Salford in 1908 and educated at the universities of Cambridge, Yale and Harvard, throughout his long career he worked as a journalist and broadcaster for many different organisations and won numerous awards for his work. He was the Guardian' s chief American correspondent for twenty-five years and the host of Masterpiece Theatre and other ground-breaking cultural television programmes. He achieved acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic for his thirteen-part BBC series America- A Personal History of the United States and the accompanying book sold two million copies. Alistair Cooke was, however, best known both at home and abroad for his weekly Letter from America, which was heard over five continents and totalled 2,869 broadcasts, becoming far and away the longest-running BBC radio series in broadcasting history. He died in March 2004, just a few weeks after his retirement.