An absorbing stroll down a potholed, rubble-strewn memory lane with a leading left-wing journalist. The late Kopkind (Decade of Crisis, not reviewed, etc.), a regular contributor to stalwarts like the Nation and more ephemeral publications like Hard Times and Ramparts, possessed both the hard eye of the streetwise reporter and the historical depth of a scholar. This highly unusual combination is everywhere evident in this anthology of his work, which begins with the civil rights movement in the Deep South in the early '60s and ends with gay- rights activism in New York City in 1994. Reading through Kopkind's literate reporting, one revisits flashes of recent history: the ``morality playlet'' of Joe Namath's forced resignation from professional football for owning a bar in which gambling took place while the owner of the New York Jets owned a racetrack in New Jersey and put big money on the Super Bowl; Janis Joplin's dawning awareness of her lesbianism and the effects that self-knowledge had on her soon-to-end career (``even her death is not her own; it merely extends the metaphor''); the abundant hypocrisies attendant at the Woodstock festival (``an environment created by a couple of hip entrepreneurs to consolidate the culture revolution and extract the money of its troops''); Pee-Wee Herman's big misadventure in a Florida porno theater (``don't think you can survive as a rebel, however hilarious, in TV's well-fortified cultural garrison''). Whether writing of the machinations of Black Panthers and Green Berets, the Bay of Pigs, the Stonewall riots, disco, or modern literature, Kopkind commands extraordinary grace and vision—and an extraordinary ability to delight and rile at the same moment. Shelve this collection next to the best writings of I.F. Stone and H.L. Mencken in that great library of books that torment the comfortable.
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