Christmas Eve by Alistair Cooke; Illustrated by Marc Simont
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1952. First Edition. Hardcover. 56 pages ; illustrated ; 25 cm. $2.00 dust jacket with minimal wear. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
When the BBC asked Alistair Cooke, three Christmases ago, to "do something different" for his broadcast that fell in Christmas week, he gravely told his radio audience he would tell them "A Typical American Christmas story." The British were startled to hear there was any such genre (so was Cooke), but were delighted with the first taste of it—the story of Zebby Adams, here reprinted.
The two succeeding Christmases, Cooke's time was expanded to a half-hour and shifted to Christmas Eve. Pointing out to the British audience "the peculiarly modern irreverence of the traditional American Christmas story," Cooke proceeded to demonstrate with two other examples: showing—in Larry and the Snowflakes— that the American brand can contain everything from colonial churches to Hollywood blondes, psychoanalysts, advertising accounts, and the DC-4. His third example-Old Nick: A Hudson River Legend—is a particularly outrageous revamping of the first Christmas story (St. Nicholas and the Three Dowries), which is then carefully confused with the legend of Rambout Van Dam.
The British were enchanted with these tales, but began to suspect they were aged solely in the wood of Cooke's imagination. Anyway, Cooke handed us the manuscript of them with the airy assurance that "they are all true—so far as I know."
We present them to our readers in the proud certainty that if they are not traditional American Christmas stories, they soon will be.
Since the fall evening he arrived in the United States twenty years ago, Alistair Cooke has looked on America with all the zest of an Elizabethan crying "O, my America, my new founde land." Some of his findings were memorably set down in a book called One Man's America (1952).
He went back to his native England in i934, but, agreeing with H. L. Mencken's promise to him that "it is impossible to be bored in America," he sailed in on an immigrant visa in 1937 and took out first papers. He became a citizen in 1941.
This year he was given a Peabody Award, radio's highest distinction, for his weekly interpretation of us to the British. He is the MC for the new Ford Foundation-CBS television program broadcast on Sunday afternoons. And since 1948 he has been regular full-time Chief American Correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. Cooke's earlier book on the Hiss-Chambers case, A Generation on Trial (1950), was brought up to date in i952.
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