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Letter from America, 1946-2004 [NOOK Book]


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 world’s best-loved broadcasters, and a foreigner who helped Americans better understand themselves.

Here, in print for the first time, is a collection of Cooke’s finest reports that celebrates the inimitable style of this ...
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Letter from America, 1946-2004

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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 world’s best-loved broadcasters, and a foreigner who helped Americans better understand themselves.

Here, in print for the first time, is a collection of Cooke’s 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 Cooke’s 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, Cooke’s remarkable eyewitness account of Robert Kennedy’s 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 Cooke’s delight in the pleasures of everyday life.

Imbued with Alistair Cooke’s good humor, elegance, and understanding, Letter from America, 1946—2004 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.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. (Nov) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307426604
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/18/2007
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 906,784
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet 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 BBC’s film critic from 1934 to 1937. He then returned to America and became a U.S. citizen in 1941. Cooke was The Guardian’s 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 Cooke’s 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.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Table of Contents

Editor's note
The 1940s
The immigrant strain 3
Damon Runyon's America 8
Roughing it 13
Joe Louis 18
Washington, DC 23
The fall of New England 32
Letter to an intending immigrant 40
The 1950s
The summer bachelor 47
It's a democracy, isn't it? 52
The European's America 57
Getting away from it all 62
The court and the Negro 67
The colonel of the plains 73
HLM : RIP 78
The road to Churchill Downs 85
Politics and the human animal 92
General Marshall 96
The 1960s
Beizbol 105
Robert Frost 109
The father 115
The assassination 121
LBJ 126
Has the world gone to pot? 131
John McLaren's folly 136
The well-dressed American, man! 142
A lonely man 147
Vietnam 151
A bad night in Los Angeles 159
Making a home of a house 165
Telling one country about another 170
Pegler 178
'Eternal vigilance' - by whom? 184
The 1970s
The letter from Long Island 191
Give thanks, for what? 196
The Duke 201
The end of the affair 206
I'm all right, Jack 210
No cabinet officers need apply 215
Christmas in Vermont 219
Mr. Olmsted's park 223
The retiring kind 228
Two for the road 234
The spy that came down in the cold 239
A letter from Long Island 244
The presidential ear 248
The 1980s
Bringing up baby 255
Attempted assassination of President Reagan 259
The Fourth of July 263
Old man Reagan 268
Inaugurals - on and off 272
Memories of 11 November 277
Miss much - no regret 281
Expert witness 286
The drugs blight 290
Time to retire 295
Martin Luther King - the black Washington 299
Fred Astaire 304
Origins of American slang 308
Mayor Koch at work 312
Hurricanes 316
Chaplin - the last word 321
San Francisco earthquake 325
The 1990s
Presidential ghosts 333
The end of the eighties - great or greedy? 337
Fighting in what? 341
Riots in Los Angeles 347
White House style 351
The Irish in New York City 354
'Give me your tired, your poor ...' 358
Thirtieth anniversary of Kennedy assassination 362
Boston 366
Trick or treat 371
Fiftieth anniversary of VE day 375
O.J. - the verdict 379
The old rocking chair 383
Silver Watergate 388
The end of civilization 392
The Kennedy missile tapes 396
The evolution of the grand jury 401
The president will address the nation 405
New words for objects new and old 410
Loneliness, male companionship and the hunt 415
Park Avenue's colourful Christmas 420
2000 - 2004
The death of the old media 427
Running mates and carpetbaggers 430
The day of judgement 435
The origin of the continental blow-out 439
America's day of terror 442
America on standby 446
The stars and stripes 450
Messiah at Christmas 454
Ringing the changes 458
Arise, Sir Rudolph 462
The day the money stopped 466
Memory of a true great 470
The last of the old-time gangsters 474
Farewell to San Francisco 478
Remembering a dear friend 483
Meeting the stars 487
The pledge of allegiance 491
Towering glass and steel 494
Charlie Addams 498
The Democrats' growing confidence 501
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