significant role—indeed, that the Germannpeople as a whole contributed tonHitler’s attack upon civilization—thatnprompted Hochhuth to write his book.nThe verdict is not a simple and unequivocaln”guilty”; but neither is the plea ofnnational insanity meant to exonerate thenGermans from stifling, in cold blood, sonmany million love stories. The booknends with an excruciating, vivid descriptionnof Zasada’s hanging—his slow,nineptly performed execution. And as thenwrithing youth, fighting for air, lucidlynmeets his end, as he cries out for hisnmother whom he had not been allowed toninform of his fate, the German nightmarenis captured as the author focuses on thenPorgy & BassnAlistair Cooke: The Americans; AlfrednA. Knopf; Nevv^ York.nby Tom Bethelln1 have a fellow feeling for AlistairnCooke—like him I came to the UnitednStates from England (albeit a generationnlater) attracted by jazz among other indigenousnfare—but still, despite havingnheard his broadcasts for years, I retainnin my mind only the most blurred, indistinctnimpression of the gentleman.nHe seems to have achieved the oddnstatus of cultural master of ceremoniesnon permanent loan from Great Britain,na performing museum piece, as it were,nsomeone who sees through the dailynpolitical hurly burly, his gaze undistractedlynfixed upon the finer things ofnlife; an entrepreneur of culture and history,nfine-liver, true observer, and, yes,na “superbly civilized voice,” as we learnnfrom the dust jacket wrapped aroundnthis collection of his radio talks broadcastnby the BBC under the title LetternMr. Bethell is a Washington editor ofnHarper’s and Washington correspondentnfor The American Spectator.nexecutioners:nEven they were so appalled at what theynhad done and the way they had done itnthat they unanimously claimed to havenforgotten how it came to pass—somenmeasure of their inability ever tonforget it. Only the wife of the districtndirector, who hadn’t actuallynwitnessed this ‘rotten business,’ couldnbring herself to speak of it at all. Recallingnthe incident after a lapse ofnthirty-six years, while the district directornhimself, now eighty, starednshamefaced at the floor, she declarednthat ‘Father couldn’t eat his dinnernfor a fortnight afterwards.’nA fortnight. DnFrom America.nCivilized. Cooke to a T.nAfter explaining that he has “summerednand autumned on the North Forkn(of Long Island) for forty-two years,”nCooke takes us on a characteristic tour:n… there is nowhere I know—not thenMediterranean or the Crimea, mostncertainly not California—where betweennMay and November there isnsuch a succulent haul of so manynkinds of splendid eating fish. We arenjust at the point where the northernncold-water fish nibble at our shoresnand where the warm water fishnabound. First, for the gourmet,nare the noble striped bass and the bluenfish. Then the swordfish, and thenflounder, and the lemon sole. Butnthere are also other very tasty speciesnwhich city people either don’t knownabout or despise out of genteel ignorance.nIn the summer months the fatnporgy is always mooching along thenbed of the bay .. . Baked porgy is delicious,nand I simply have no idea whynit never appears on restaurant menus.nBecause, silly, you can’t expect genteelncity folk to know about the trulyncivilized things of life. They are allnnnhaste and no speed—forever rushingnabout on the expressways worryingnabout ephemera like inflation and housingncosts. Uncivilized.nAt Christmas Cooke is in northernnVermont. Here it’s two fat geese honking,nold-fashioned kitchen platters tottering,npans bubbling and much adonabout venison. Cooke must be descendednfrom cooks. “I ought to say that I’venhad venison in farmhouses in Scotlandnand in lush restaurants in London andnParis,” Cooke-the-tourer reminds us.n”And with an immense to-do and gaudynpromises of foods for the gods, innTexas.” Plainly a man of the world (butnone who is more at home with Scottishncrofters than with Texas millionaires.^).nWell, soon enough it is time to returnnto New York City, to the eightroomnrent-controlled apartment on then15th floor overlooking Frederick LawnOlmstead’s Central Park, which Cookenperceives as “a precious breathing spacenin a jungle of cement and steel.” (Otherwisenknown as Mugger’s Heaven: givenme Third Avenue cement and steel anynday.) Cooke looks out of his study windownand manages to work up a littlencreative thought as he gazes at the starkntrees of the winter, then later the “riotingnforsythia and dogwood and cherry.”nHe notices the endless stream of earnestnjoggers and concludes, after somenside reflections on the arms race, thatn”earnestness is the only soil in whichnideology can grow.” Thereby, Cooke letsnus know that above all else he is notnearnest. Nor is he particularly interestednin ideas; certainly not in ideology. Earnestnessnis a bore. Ideology makes peoplenbehave dangerously.nAll perfectly true, of course. Earnestnessnis boring, ideology is dangerous.nBut Cooke’s response, to assume thenguise of the peripatetic American aristocrat,ndevoted to little more than Porgynand Bass, is the intellectual equivalentnof unilateral disarmament.nJLou can’t blame a man for being ansuccess. Cooke has plenty of talent andnI don’t begrudge him fame and fortunenMarch/April 1981n