Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Random Cooke, April 2011

A brownstone overlooking Central Park, New York

I had fun doing this a few weeks ago, so I'm going to try it again. The idea is to open a page of Alistair Cooke's Letter From America, 1946 - 2004 at random, and see where the first paragraph on which my eye falls, might lead. As before, I guarantee not to cheat, but I'm relaxing the rules to allow the passage to be put in context by looking, if necessary, at the paragraphs before or after.

Here goes:

'Well, the past two weeks have reflected once again the embarrassing truth that the downfall of a dictator is significant, but a toothache is an emergency. I ought to be talking about Dr Kissinger's decision to resign as Secretary of State after the next election. I ought to go on about the  recent earthquake in the Soviet Union, which had a force one-third as great again as the 1906 San Fransisco earthquake. There is a lot of room for comment in the fact that the Russians have been very tight-lipped about it. But Dr Kissinger and the Russian earthquake fade away like ghosts at dawn before the sentence shouted at me during the past fortnight by my wife whenever I am on my way out. 'Don't go out,' she'd scream from some distant room, 'without taking down the garbage.'

This is from his 21st May 1976 talk, entitled 'I'm All Right, Jack', about a strike by apartment house maintenance men which had been going on for a fortnight. Cooke lived in a brownstone (red sandstone) apartment block overlooking Central Park in New York. He had started the talk by pointing out the universal truth that 'when a small painful thing happens to you and me, it blots out a catastophe that staggers the headlines.'

How true, and in fact how a propos.
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