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Five specially selected letters from American election years, based on the BBC Radio 4 series Cooke's Elections.


This title features five specially selected letters from American election years, based on the BBC Radio 4 series "Cooke's Elections". Alistair Cooke was a radio legend, entertaining millions of listeners for over fifty years in his weekly "Letter from America". It was the longest-running one-man series in radio history, and every show was a virtuoso performance. Wise and witty, informed yet informal, Cooke was the doyen of foreign correspondents. To correspond with the 2008 election, and the centenary of Alistair Cooke's birth, here are five Letters about previous presidents and their elections over the past sixty years, in which Cooke - one of the world's most famous letter writers and radio's greatest observer - reflects on American life and politics.Starting with Truman's surprise victory in 1948 and concluding with another surprise win, that of George W. Bush in 2000 - he comments on opinion polls, democracy, the difference between Democrats and Republicans, Bill Clinton's fashion sense and what Clinton's symbolic rejection of 'the blue blazer' meant to the American political system. In each Letter, his unique style of expression and analysis shines through.

The Letters are introduced by the BBC's North America editor, Justin Webb, who sets them in their historical context and reflects on what has changed since Cooke's original broadcasts and what has not.

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23 von 24 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
For 58 years Cooke was unfailingly at the heart of the complex nation. This is a treat. 8. Januar 2006
Von D. Stuart - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Alistair Cooke's wonderful Letter from America broadcasts were heard world-wide and were an institution for close to 60 years. In that time, Cooke - UK born but for most of his life a resident of New York City - sought through his thoughtful pieces to convey the complexity of life, of society and of politics in the United States.

In this collection of essays, organised chronologically, Cooke takes us from post-war America through to mid 2005, and his subject matter ranges from the specific relatively "small" topics (for example McLaren's dogged creation of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park) through to large, world-changing subjects including the Vietnam question and the assassinations of both John and Robert Kennedy. The latter is a riveting account because Cooke was there when it happened and his journalistic and observational skills come through as finely honed, dispassionate yet all the more powerful.

What gives this volume real richness are two things in particular.

First; Cooke has an unfailing grasp of history. In writing each week's snapshot of a changing nation, he manages to contextualise what he sees, and to draw upon both his enormous grasp of history and his unparalled contact with top politicians, writers and artists over 60 years. In today's age of soundbyte editorializing and glib simplifications (history seen through the eyes of Forrest Gump, if you will), Cooke's essays are thoughtful, well researched and highly reasoned. As a reader I'm struck by how prescient his comments are, and I'm also struck at how relevant his thought provoking comments about previous political events resonate in today's unfolding history.

The second facet of this rich gem is Cooke's beautifully crafted writing style. He wrote these essays for radio and perhaps this is why they read so beautifully. In his portrait of Charles Lindbergh, for example, he talks about the man for 500 words - creating a vivid, recognisable picture before he even mentions the name of his subject. In so doing, Cooke furnishes the reader (or listener) with the frisson of a delightful guessing game (he's talking about Lindbergh, right?) that allows us to hear more about the subject matter without letting us backfill the story with our own preconceptions. His humour is delightfully wry, and his ability to choose surprising and sometimes quite earthy quotes from the history makers of the past 60 years provides additional pleasure. Cooke clearly laboured over each and every essay to ensure their seamless recipe of wit, fact and observation.

This volume is a remarkable collection of essays: a format that encourages thoughtful, enjoyable bedside reading. In devouring this marvellous book, you are taken to the heart of a complex nation. An easy 5 stars; I'd add that this book makes an excellent gift, regardless of which way your friends vote.
15 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A Love Letter To America 18. Mai 2006
Von Mr. Nc Shackley - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
When I left England to live in the United States for one year last August, there was only one book I took with me - Alistair Cooke's `Letter From America'. What else could I have taken? Cooke saw into America like no other Brit (or no other non-American, for that matter).

Starting at the mid 1940s, the book winds its way through post-war America nearly right up until the authors death in 2004, picking out the best of his weekly broadcasts. The subject matters range from politics, history, current affairs, entertainment and the topics from the New England fall, jazz, Robert Kennedy's assassination and O.J Simpson.

But it is not the subject matter that makes this book so special (for we already know about most of them anyway) it is none other than Cooke's insight and writing style. The articles flow like the finest novel or poem (which is probably attributed to Cooke's background in theatre). Each time you come back to read the book again it feels as though you are receiving the opinions of a familiar friend, and not some distant journalist.

There are drawbacks. Cooke was often criticised, and quite rightly so, for ignoring the darker side of the American dream. The other possible drawback, depending on your viewpoint, is that Cooke was a committed conservative, especially in the latter half of his career. Many of the final articles from the late 90's and early 00's lament the current position of America and (what he saw as) the sliding standards of journalism. Maybe, but you also can't help feel that he was by this point slightly out of touch.

These minor quibbles, however, cannot undermine Cooke's overall achievement of helping us better understand this important nation, which could be described as love letters to America.
15 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
The Masters at Augusta and the Kentucky Derby too 28. Juni 2005
Von Shalom Freedman - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
For many years I listened to Alistair Cooke's ' Letters from America'. The calm, erudite voice , the super- civilized tone , the suggestion of great intelligence somehow always promised to provide insight into America that no one else had. The British Tocqueville of the airways who knew more about the Americans than the Americans knew about themselves.
Yet somehow I more often than not felt a certain disappointment in the communications. Reading them without the Cooke tone and pause, without his special emphasis diminishes them further. There is it seems to me a great deal of observation and color , and not enough striving for deep general understanding.
And there is too in the calm of Cooke's tone something strange and distant.The many rich voices of America, its ways of shouting and making itself felt are not transmitted strongly here.
Nonetheless in close to sixty years of reporting there are numerous insights and observations and much that entertains.
I think of Cooke's elegy for his old friend Isaiah Berlin. I think of reports made from all kinds of whistle stops on Presidential campaigns. I think too of his capacity for friendship, and how that does move through these letters and give them a warmer feeling of comraderie.
I think also of Cooke's basic real affection for America, his interest and appreciation of much what is good and beautiful in it.
I think too of how many listeners he delighted with his wit, and dry humor and clear - cut language.
This is a lifetime work of special meaning and value for the many thousands who waited each week for those fifteen minutes of his often most delightful and insightful talk.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
looking in a mirror 31. März 2006
Von J. Huffaker - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Alistair Cooke is an observer of the American social fabric, of our heros, of our blemishes, of our short history and sense of place. His first hand accounts of American and Americans is not unlike a nation looking at itself in a mirror. He is at times generous with his observations. At other times he is very British in his ability to be critical with a smile. He can describe a familiar person and make us see the person anew. The book is a pleasure to read, each chapter a new adventure of wit and insight. He wanders a bit but his style makes you enjoy the journey and look forward to the next excursion.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A Portrait of America, Masterfully Painted 12. April 2011
Von Asher Gabbay - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
My last two years of high school were spent in a small boarding school in northern Israel. It was an English school, based on the British education system, and most students (not that there were too many of them; the entire school numbered 30 or so students) were British. They missed home and expressed their longings in various, odd ways, such as eating Marmite. When Saturday evening came around, they all gathered around the radio and listened to the BBC World Service, to find out how their soccer teams fared in the weekly League matches. That's how I became aware of the BBC World Service, starting to listen to it myself before going to bed every evening.
The programme I remember most vividly from those long-gone days was the weekly reading of a "letter" by a British man with a voice that was deep and authoritative yet at the same time soothing and reassuring. Every week he would talk for 15 minutes, offering a snapshot of some aspect of life in America. The topics would cover all walks of life: domestic politics, foreign affairs, sports, show business, race relations, etc. Not having been in America yet, his weekly transmission opened for me a window into a world that was new and fascinating.

The man was Alistair Cooke and the name of the show was "Letter from America". Cooke was a British journalist who moved to the United States in 1937, at the age of 29, and made America his home. The first episode of the show was broadcast by Cooke in March 1946, and the last on February 2004, a month before he passed away at the age of 95. For almost 60 years, Cooke was the voice through which listeners of the BBC learnt about the New World.

When I saw this book on sale I knew I would love it. I read it slowly, very slowly. I think it took me more than a year to finish it. I didn't want to rush through the "letters", wishing to draw out the pleasure for as long as possible. The move from the radio to the written word has not diminished Cooke's presence; at times, I felt as if his voice spoke from the book's pages. Even when the subject at hand is familiar, Cooke's writing/reading provide details and perspective that weave together an insightful and mostly loving portrait of America.

This is a book to own and to return to from time to time, picking a "letter" that grabs our mood and rediscovering a piece of history, masterfully told by Alistair Cooke.
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