March 31, 2004
Alistair Cooke, who retired only weeks ago, has died at 95.
UPDATE. Mark Steyn posts a 1996 Cooke profile, and Scott Burgess remembers a favourite Cooke line:
Posted by Tim Blair at March 31, 2004 12:52 AM
Nothing dies harder among the intelligentsia, among writers especially, than the quiet notion that they have a superior understanding of the art of politics.
Back in 1988, when I was living in Berlin with very little money, one of my simple joys was listening to Alistair Cooke's Letter from America. Sitting in my cold apartment with a cup of hot coffee, I followed closely his commentary, always interesting and soothing in its own way.
Amazing how long he worked!
I, for one, will miss his thoughts and observations.
Bummer. He was a good guy.
Never underestimate how much of America's perception of the British - urbane, educated, well-spoken - derive mainly from Alistair Cooke's presence on Masterpiece Theatre. He was a one-man cultural education program.
Too bad... though, frankly, making it to 95 ain't bad.
In 1956, before doing my mandatory national service as an airborne trained killer, I took a job in England writing for a bi-weekly newspaper in the West Midlands. Wanting to learn how to do English crossword puzzles, I began buying the (then) Manchester Guardian and there, lo and behold, encountered the great man - Alistair Cooke.
The first thing I read of his was a long and absolutely accurate account of the U.S. presidential electoral process written for the English reader. It was a model of well-written, direct reporting and I became, instantly, a fan forever.
A perceptive and elequent man: he will be greatly missed. RIP, Alistair. Good night.
I meant "eloquent", of coarse.
Jeffrey - i had the same experience in the very same city starting in 1982. Ever since I found that the best reason to tune in on my shortwave and listen to the Beeb. Lately, it seems that Cook was the only reason.
I know it sounds like a gush, but it's as though I lost a friend of 20 years.
I'll miss his dignified way and his wonderful letters forever. What I will miss most will be the clear way which he looked at the world - unencumbered by passing nonsense.
I not listen to the Letter from America broadcasts, but I read his writings with great pleasure. His book Six Men is well worth reading. It portrays of six men whom Cooke encountered in his life. If I recall correctly, they included Bertrand Russell, the Duke of Windsor, Charlie Chaplin, and H. L. Mencken - such was the range of Cooke's circle of acquaintances. Cooke's description of H. L. Mencken covering the Progressive Party convention of 1948 is priceless, especially how Mencken coaxed Henry Wallace to admit that he had written fan letters to Madame Blavatsky in his youth. Cooke was a fine writer and a gentleman in the truest sense of the word; the world is poorer without him.
A world without Cookie is a poorer world. Thanks mate, you done real good.
A truly great broadcaster who painted the pictures with words. Always amazed me that he lived in the States for all those decades and never aquired the hint of an American accent. And that voice! Sounded like Jack Daniels with a good Havana!
Not much I can add to the above. He'll be missed. Bummer.
And Peter Ustinov too - at school - showed enormous originality, which had to be curbed at all cost.
It's a real shame. His letters revealed a lot about America, cutting through all too common stereotypes.
Like some of the best bloggers, ordinary life in a different culture suddenly became more comprehensible and relevant.
The BBC especially needed his voice to stand up to the prevailing anti-american bias found in most of its stories.
Ironic, considering Cooke was a card carrying member of the intelligentsia.
Thanks for the customary dose of compassion and grace, Miranda.
RIP Mr Cooke. Sorely missed.
The intelligentsia have cards now? They think of everything!
Alistair Cooke's Letter From America was the first blog.
The Internet didn't exist in 1948, so he had to do it by radio. But what is LFA but a series of weekly blog posts, sometimes political, sometimes personal, sometimes on Golf or Tennis?
Don't worry Miranda, just think forward to the day when you die alone...unloved.
Miranda, you are a fine example of the swine who believe they can make up for their own utter lack of character by mouthing platitudes.
Crawl back to your bitchy little friends, and don't worry what they say about you behind your back.