Fifty short talks on the American scene during the past decade--chatty, cheerful, and awfully bland. Cooke has been making these reports for the BBC (which distributes them all over the world) for more than 30 years, and he's long since gotten the recipe down pat: take the leading stories in the news, add plenty of personal recollections, a little local color, and season with genial whimsy to taste. The result is a series of mildly informative, mildly conservative statements that skim the surface of issues. Watergate? Cooke is cool and noncommittal. Lieutenant Calley? Well, it was horrible, but all wars lead to atrocities (Dresden, etc.). Angela Davis on trial? Let's not prejudge the case. New York's cold-shouldering Pompidou (for selling jets to Libya)? No comment--but a hint of well-bred contempt. America has been kind to Cooke, and Cooke, as usual, gently flatters his adopted country. He has a good word, or at least a wry smile, for just about everyone, especially the dead (even Westbrook Pegler gets a round of plaudits). It's hard, if not impossible, to dislike this pleasant, avuncular figure who's been with us, it seems, ever since the invention of television. He writes well enough, he's fundamentally quite intelligent, but he misses the real agonies and ecstasies of life in the U.S.A. For uncritical readers only.