Just ahead of Part Seven of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade, may I invite you to join me tomorrow for the latest of our Steyn video poems - because, as I always say, video poetry is where the big bucks are.
As you know, the Duke of Edinburgh died in the early hours of yesterday morning at the age of ninety-nine. I recalled my own encounter with him here. Next week's instalment of Passing Parade has a rather direct connection to His Royal Highness.
Thanks for the Alistair Cooke obit. He was a marvellous broadcaster and I looked forward, as I grew up, to wrapping up warm in his velvet tones each week or however often I could catch his radio show. I recall he did occasional obits too. In 1977, he did one for Bing. It was almost an encomium, and reminds me of Steyn's own style in terms of how he used verbal dynamics, light and shade, swung between the big picture stuff and small moments which spoke of something characteristic or special, the precise use of and love for language.
Oh, and I have had occasion to drive up and down the A1 in England many times and somewhere, maybe 100 miles or so north of London, there are two American-style diners, one on each side of the road, within a couple of miles of each other. And yes, they are just as Mark describes. I stopped at one once, and could not do so again. American cultural imperialism sadly has its limits.
Christopher is referring to the sad global mimicry of American culture, as noted by Cooke:
In Texas, in Illinois, in Connecticut, in California, a drugstore, for instance, means the image of a complete American community—a shining fountain, the taste of lush syrups, an orgy of casual friendships and smart advertising, a halfway house between brisk comings and goings, the wayside first-aid station of American cleanliness and quick health. It should, and very often does, 'baffle the foreigner like an idiom'. But here it is what a drugstore might be in Bulgaria or Leeds—a sad imitation by a storekeeper who once read an American novel and was filled with immortal longings.
To which I responded:
That's a very sharp insight. At that time, there were, obviously, no drugstores in Bulgaria. But I went to one in Sofia just after the fall of the Commies and it was exactly as Cooke foresaw: 'a sad imitation', Many provincial towns in England and elsewhere have superficially 'gone American' in the years since—filled with pseudo-diners and burger joints—while retaining and, indeed, accelerating their 'seeping seediness'. Cooke anticipated the limitations of the cheeseburger imperium: the more the world mimicked the superficial surface of American life, the less it understood the deeper cultural dynamic of the country.
In this weekend's episode of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade, I celebrate two Americans who, in different ways, were incredibly reckless and partial to wild flying leaps - motorcycle stunt maestro Evel Knievel and Tonight Show host Jack Paar. Members of The Mark Steyn Club can listen to me read Part Seven of our tale simply by clicking here and logging-in. And, if you've missed the beginning of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade, you can start fresh with Part One and have a good old binge-listen here.
If you'd like to join Christopher in The Mark Steyn Club, we'd love to have you along for our fast-approaching fifth season. So please click here for more info - and don't forget, for fellow fans of classic fiction and/or poetry, our Steyn Club Gift Membership.