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Alistair Cooke's Seasonal Letters from America (BBC Audio) Audio CD – Audiobook, 8 Oct 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD: 2 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Physical Audio (8 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408426811
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408426814
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.2 x 14.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 517,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Cooke's debonaire, transatlantic tones are unmistakable... -- FT Magazine, March 8, 2008

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Oct. 2009
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
`Gued evening.' I can still hear the familiar and well-loved voice of Alistair Cooke starting his weekly `Letter from America' on BBC radio. The series came about through drift more than through design or policy, and it lasted for over 60 years. Alistair Cooke died in 2004, aged 95 and reportedly working on his next `talk' as he himself called his weekly broadcasts.

He was English of course, born in Manchester (or at least Salford) and Cambridge-educated. From an early date America became his home, and his deep love of his adopted country, combined of course with his outstanding journalistic gifts, gave his talks their distinctive flavour and accounted for their astonishing success with their British audience. They are letters from America, not letters to America, and I have no idea whether they were familiar in America, where Cooke was better known for his longer broadcasts and for his books. I myself developed a fascination for America and for Cooke's talks from an early age, and I was pleased to find that the selection of 8 broadcasts here, although including recent numbers from 2003 and 2001, covers a wide range of dates going back as far as 1951, when I was already hooked on Cooke. At that date Radio 4 was called the Home Service, and television, although in existence as an invention, was only beginning to penetrate our culture. You can hear Cooke on this topic in the first item on the second disc. I no doubt heard it myself, but `heard' and not `saw' would have been the verb, as my parents were implacably opposed to having such a thing distracting their school-aged family from their schoolwork.

None of the talks here is on any political topic, you may be relieved to hear.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Each of these letters from Alistair Cooke is a gem. Dating from 1951 to 2003, they are now doubly impressive as they don't just take the reader stateside, but back to another time. Just the right length, Cooke's words are precise and his voice mellifluous.

However, the package lets them down. Justin Webb's introductions are at best redundant and at worst irritating; he provides a synopsis of each letter and on one occasion advises us to listen out for Cooke's description of Osama Bin Laden. The letters require such little scene setting it would have been better to do more than provide a date.

Collections like this are for fans who want something to treasure. This rather ordinary two CD package, which heavily promotes other BBC audio titles while providing only a sparse biography of Alistair Cooke, fails to tick that box. It may still qualify as a stocking filler Christmas gift for someone who still misses Alistair Cooke's regular Letters from America, but only just.
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Format: Audio CD
As an avid listener to "Letter From America" ever since my grandfather introduced me to it way back in the 1960s when I was a wee lad, I was moved to write in my Amazon review of the 2004 BBC release of "Letter from America (Radio Collection)"

(quote) "Ah! That voice! Alistair Cooke had the voice that could be listened to for hours on end i.e. a sort-of cool, mellow, slow-burning voice. In fact he was one of the few people I've ever heard who could spend 15 minutes telling you almost nothing - and yet make it sound interesting!" (unquote)

Having listened to this "Seasonal" compilation of Alistair's Letters, I still stand 100% by that viewpoint. The two-CD compilation contains eight "Letters From America" which were originally broadcast around the Christmas/New Year period.

The Letters included are: Introducing The Messiah (21/12/2001), Birth Of A Christmas Fairytale (19/12/2003), Groucho & Bing (23/12/1977), Silence In Vermont (29/12/1995), The Early Days Of Television (19/1/1951), The Noxious Weed (1/1/1971), Y2K Alert (29/12/1999) and Making A Home Of A House (4/1/1969).

On a negative note, this compilation loses one star purely because:-

1) At least two of the Letters included are not the original recordings but re-recordings - admittedly by A.C. himself. Why do the BBC do this when I KNOW the original recording exists - and indeed has been included in another BBC Letters From America Audiobook release?

2) At least two of the Letters included in this compilation are also included in other BBC Letters From America Audiobook compilations.

Neither of these two minus points greatly spoil what is an enjoyable two hours or so of A.C.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I know Alistair Cooke is an absolute legend, but unfortunately I found him a little too dry to palet. It is not my usual taste anyway but I thought I would venture over and have a listen. Dont get me wrong, I found his letters interesting, particularly the views on the American ways but they were not interesting enough to keep me listening. Sorry!
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Alistair Cooke died in 2004 leaving behind an impressive legacy of work. His BBC Radio 4 broadcasts "Letter From America" being the part he was most famous for in Britain. Over the years there have been several collections of these 15 minute essays and this 2 CD set of broadcasts made over the Christmas Season is a welcome addition.
Each of the eight is prefaced by a brief and concise introduction by BBC correspondent Justin Webb; this is useful to anyone new to Mr Cooke's work and a timely reminder to the rest of us of Mr Cooke's genius.
What was always impressive was the scope of each letter, although there might be a single theme this did not stop him from bringing of wealth of associated detail; the first one in this collection is a fine example.
Although this collection is of those broadcasts made during the Christmas Season they are not essentially `Christmas' broadcasts dwelling only upon this festival. The last one is a good illustration, made on 4th January 1969 before Richard Nixon assumed the mantel of president it is a compact insight into the characteristics of previous presidents and considering the space of time since that broadcast is a now valuable historical evidence on men barely remembered in these times. Similarly the first on CD 2 is an absorbing account of TV as it was just starting out in the USA. Thus these can be listened to at any time of the year.
Mr Cooke had a deceptively gentle, relaxed tone which drew the listener to stop whatever they were doing, and such was his skill that no subject was ever found dull.
Packaged neatly with useful notes this would also be an ideal gift for Christmas for anyone who enjoys the art of broadcasting journalism and unfamiliar with this master.
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