March 31, 2004

A Masterpiece

Godspeed, Alistair Cooke.

About 15 years ago I was asked what I'd like for a Christmas present, and I blithely said, "a shortwave radio," thinking of one of those humongous tabletop models Heathkit used to sell. Knowing full well nobody was going to buy me one of those or anything similar, it was just a throwaway line. Lo and behold, on Christmas Day I opened up a box to find this. It was a real battery hog, and in 1990 it was really hard to find an AC adapter for it, so I stopped using it after a year or so, but in the meantime I had a great time listening to Radio Moscow (that looks to be a successor station), Swiss Radio International, and, of course, the BBC World Service. Because of the time difference, I could get Cooke's "Letter from America" at about 8:15pm on Saturday nights. It was 13 minutes of wry and witty commentary about anything, from politics to culture and back again. From the NYT obituary:

In the introduction to his book "America," Mr. Cooke gave some idea of the range of his essays. "I covered everything from the public lives of six presidents to the private life of a burlesque stripper; from the black market in beef to the Black Panthers, from the Marshall Plan to Planned Parenthood."
He was charming, sly, sardonic, and also emotional (there are highlights from the program at the BBC site which include his broadcast of the RFK assassination; he was at the Hotel Ambassador that night). It was an amazing career. May he rest in peace.

Posted by Linkmeister at March 31, 2004 12:01 AM

What a wonderful man, what an accomplished life. I listened to an NPR program devoted to him just last week. Celebrating his wit, heart, and style. And mourning his retirement. And now he's gone. I'll miss him.

Posted by: Raye at March 30, 2004 09:58 PM

He will be truly missed.

Posted by: cassie-b at March 31, 2004 11:16 AM