An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Two men of letters

Two very different men of american letters came to us this week courtesy of Radio4 online. What we Brits tend to think of, or at least always thought of. as a national treasure (unless we are licence fee objectors) goes from strength to strength as it adapts to new technologies and the 21st century. Who else in broadcasting would bring you Kurt Vonnegut and P J O'Rourke in one week (and don't tell me Rupert Murdoch would) and throw in a series of programmes dedicated to the imprimatur of Arthur Miller at the same time? And now that we are outside of the UK we understand, in very subjective fashion, that the BBC is more a global or international treasure than our more parochial vista would have had us believe.

The two pieces were fascinating and entertaining although the difference in the way the two men are aging or have aged is illuminating. O'Rourke is or was an acerbic and sometimes flippant observer of life especially his work as a foreign correspondent who has softened and retrenched as he has aged. Vonnegut is an analyst and critic with a brilliant way with words and turn of phrase who has remained staunch. Where O'Rourke has veered further to the right as he has aged, after a brief swerve to the centre mid career, Vonnegut began and will, I suspect after this latest interview, remain a socialist and a humanist to the end. O'Rourke's cozy, family minded, right wing, religious frame of mind contrasts sharply and unfavourably with Vonnegut's tough, fair minded, left of centre approach.

The wonderful BBC did not engineer this "compare and contrast", it was an accident of broad and diverse programme making and it is only such breadth of view that makes these serendipitous juxtapositions possible. And what other broadcaster will do that for us if the BBC is doomed, as so many critics would have it become, to a simple future of ratings based competition with the mediocre?

Both of these programmes are available for listening from http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/progs/listenagain.shtml . The BBC has an excellent search feature that will help you find the Radio4 programmes referred to in this entry.

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