Alistair Cooke, Author . Knopf $35 (528p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4402-3

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)

Reviewed on: 11/15/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-14-102015-0
Open Ebook - 387 pages - 978-0-307-42660-4
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