Last night, Alistair Cooke, a veteran BBC reporter and general world culture figure, died at home in New York. He was 95 years old.
I think he was a great man, a master of subtlety, very endearing, and touchingly funny and sincere. Even in his eighties and nineties, which are the only years I had to get to know him, he stayed sharp, and put together a weekly radio segment known as the “Letter From America.” He is best known for this segment, where he observes and comments on our country from a British point of view, and I listened dozens of times. For an Anglophile like me, Cooke’s dispatches let me feel as though he and I were sharing a joke, rolling our eyes over the dotty, amusing ways of our over-eager, good-natured American cousins. Alistair Cooke was a connoisseur of absurdity, like I am, and his gentle presence will be missed. You can read the BBC’s leader on his life and career.
Some advertising in today’s New York Times on the Web, however, creates a jarring scene for those who read about Cooke’s long and fruitful life. The obituary contained an ad for the movie Never Die Alone. If you are interested, the full Times article is still available.