Correspondence

Letter From Paris: Diana—Goddess of Illusion

We live in an increasingly hysterical, media-manipulated world in which almost nothing is sacred anymore except—the words must be italicized to emphasize their gravity—except popularity, or, to be more precise, what is popular.

This was one of the first thoughts that occurred to me when, shortly before 8:00 A.M. (French time) on Sunday, August 31, I heard a BBC voice say that Princess Diana had died during the night in a ear crash in—of all places—Paris. This was merely the first in a series of surprises.

One of the pleasures offered to someone who lives in Western Europe is the ability to switch on the radio and listen to the BBC's "World Service," which, unlike London's loathsome gutter press, has on the whole remained a model of intelligent, internationally minded objectivity. On Sunday mornings, in particular, one is normally offered three excellent programs in succession. The first, "On Your Farm," records a breakfast conversation conducted by Oliver Woolston (I can't vouch for the spelling) with some farmer (and usually his wife) not only in some British county but in places as distant as Bavaria, Finland, Kenya, or Uganda. The second is a fascinating program devoted to contemporary religious problems all over the globe. The third is another smoothly articulated "Letter from America," by Alistair Cooke, who (now well into his 80's)...

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