I just saw a nice review by Jonathan Yardley of Allistair Cooke’s posthumously-published book on traveling through the USA in the 1940s. Here’s how he describes Cooke:
In his later years, especially after he became the host of “Masterpiece Theatre,” Cooke acquired a decidedly benign, avuncular air and became near-universally beloved, with the consequence that people tended to forget that, though he was a passionately loyal American, he could also be sharply critical of his adopted country. He understood, perhaps more keenly than most native Americans, that ours is a land of deep contradictions, capable of great generosity yet susceptible to smugness and arrogance. In his last years, he often spoke to his British listeners of his apprehensions about this country’s future, and there are hints of this concern in his account of America at war.
I know Cooke mainly through his long-running series of radio broadcasts, Letter from America.As wonderful as Cooke’s radio broadcasts are, apparently BBC serves them as Real Media files. A real pain!)
Cooke has written some first-class books which fortunately can be bought for practically nothing. Check out Letters from America (his best talks), America (a book he wrote in conjunction with a PBS history series) and Memories of the Great and Good. Also, many of his cassettes are still available for sale for two dollars or so. I still remember the time I bought 2 collections of his stuff after working overseas. for a while, I did nothing but listen to those cassettes, and in fact, I listened to them several times.