As I get older, it’s hard to believe that I used to be a cool and popular person. Don’t get me wrong — I’m still a lot of fun to be around and people tend to enjoy my company — but I find that I’m enjoying odder things every day.
My newest favorite thing is a thing that’s almost as old as my mom, which is to say it’s way older than I am: Alastair Cooke’s “Letters From America.” They are available, for free, on iTunes through the largesse of the BBC. I stumbled onto them while trolling iTunes UK (it’s fascinating how different each country’s store is) and almost hopped out of my seat, such was my excitement.
For those of you unfamiliar with the “programme,” it is a series of 15-minute weekly audio “letters” sent by Cooke from the US to elucidate some fine point of American life to his former countrymen. They ran from 1946 to 2004. Fifty-eight years. Can you imagine?
The first one that’s accessible is from 1947 and begins with this gem of a statement:
Americans, more than most people I think, like to enjoy the fallacy of free will and pretend that a new calendar means a new and better life.
BOOM! In your face, Americans! Take your silly provincial ideals and get out of this guy’s way! He won’t suffer your tomfoolery any longer!
In all seriousness, this thing is an incredible archive and gives a thoughtful you-are-there feeling to American history from the last half century. You should check them out. Really phenomenal stuff. Plus Cooke has such a lovely speaking voice that I’m sure they’ll improve my diction.