A fabulous selection of the cream of Cooke's Letters From America (BBC Radio 4) from the whole of his incredible career spanning 1946-2004.
This well-conceived selection from the late Alistair Cooke's 2,869 "Letters from America" broadcasts is a fine tribute to a man who combined polished New Yorker quality prose with a penetrating understanding of human nature. Cooke's radio show was the longest-running one-man series in broadcasting history, heard in more than fifty countries. His smooth, almost magically resonant voice brought pleasure to millions, and his "fireside" view of American life, people and places transformed the image of America for the ordinary Briton.
Many of the classic broadcasts are here; the Kennedy Assassination; the moving report given in the aftermath of September 11. 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 this perspective on the United States in the latter half of the twentieth century, this is as insightful a history book as you are likely to find. More than that, it is a fitting record of an erudite, much-loved man.
Piers Moore Ede
Read our profile of Alistair Cooke
Read a review of Letter from America at the Guardian
Discover the Letter from America archive at the Boston University Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center
Listen to the original radio broadcasts on the BBC Radio 4 Alistair Cooke archive