All but three of these 55 pieces, from the Manchester Guardian , date between '46 and '72; the others, more recent, are reprinted from the U.S. press. None, however, seems outdated, and the collection, as assembled by Wells, who teaches at Calvin College in Michigan, reconfirms Cooke as a judicious journalist, decent, disinterested yet ever curious, a courier of news about our country who writes graceful prose and who causes us to observe ourselves afresh. So even-tempered is this cultural interpreter that only rarely does testiness surface, as when he refers to counterculture folk as ``mooching brooders.'' Having served as the Guardian 's American correspondent until his retirement in 1972, and as host for 42 years of the BBC's ``Letter from America,'' Cook is a veteran observer of the way we live, and, unfailingly, has new and intelligent things to say, whether covering the middleweight championship bout between Sugar Ray Robinson and Randolph Turpin (1951), a Billy Graham rally (1955), a Miss America pageant (1966), civil rights demonstrations in the South, or writing obituaries of such disparate legends as Marilyn Monroe, Eleanor Roosevelt, Alfred Knopf (``Simply the best publisher of the Twentieth Century''). The latter's heirs return the compliment with this tribute marking their long-time author's 80th birthday. ( November )
Recognized by many Americans as the host of Masterpiece Theatre, Cooke first became known as a perceptive interpreter of American culture and politics for Britons as chief U.S. correspondent for the Guardian . Reprinted here are 58 of his brief essays from 1946 to 1985, almost all of them from that newspapaper. The pieces range broadly. Some deal with presidential politics in Washington, others with mundane life in small towns around the country. Likewise, the tone varies from serious to tongue-in-cheek. What makes these essays interesting is Cooke's ability to discuss Americans' problems and peculiarities without mockery. Cooke displays genuine insight and wit, even in the midst of some of the most turbulent events of this century. Highly recommended. Charles K. Piehl, Mankato State Univ., Minn.