"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Here's the opening to the NYT piece earlier this month on Alistair Cooke's retirement:
NEW YORK Two weeks ago last Friday, on Feb. 20 to be exact, Alistair Cooke slipped a sheet of yellow paper into his ancient Royal manual and typed, "Letter From America No. 2869." It was to be the last, the 2,869th, of his weekly BBC radio talks. A journalistic odyssey that had begun 58 years earlier was coming to an end. He made no mention of it in that final letter, which incidentally was about Saddam Hussein and the two George Bushes. Cooke, now 95, was winding up his long, eventful career.
"We were going to announce it after that weekend, when the show had been on the air," he said, "but of course it leaked out. My friends tell me the British papers went crazy." He added with a grin, "One of them said it was as if the queen had died."
Now, mere weeks later, Alistair Cooke has died, closing out a remarkable life in which he worked at his craft right to the end. A toast, in what he called the wine of Scotland, to his memory.
* * *
The urbane commentator America came to know as the voice of Masterpiece Theater worked the '48 conventions with H. L. Mencken and edited a volume of his essays, The Vintage Mencken, which is included in a survey of Menckenography done last year for the New York Review of Books by Cooke's Masterpiece Theater successor, Russell Baker.
Another young journalist who went on pub crawls with Mencken was Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and Boston Transcript before he entered politics.
As vice-presidential candidate in 1960, Lodge held forth on Boston Brahmins, newspapering, the strength of the UN as anti-Communist bulwark, and the merits of changing your shirt in the afternoon, in an interview with Walter Cronkite that, while contentious in spots, comes across as more good-natured and civil than much of the campaign discourse today. (Via JFK Link)