A 30-year treasury of columns, essays, reviews, and reports from Pulitzer Prize-winner Kempton, a New York Newsday columnist and New York Review of Books contributor who richly deserves wide notice. In pieces from the above-mentioned publications as well as Harper's, Esquire, and the pre-Murdoch New York Post, among others, Kempton presents an archive of observed history. His inimitable, almost classical, style, grounded in humanism, is elegantly precise, dispatching subjects in a phrase. He calls Elia Kazan's apologies before McCarthy's witch hunt ``an acceptance of humiliation for the sake of survival in a confiscatory tax bracket.'' On lost 1960s radical Jane Alpert: ``She did not so much rise to the challenge of her time as yield to infection by its vagrant air.'' On El Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani's views: ``about as far from the center as a statesman can get without reinvoking the Fugitive Slave Act.'' Kempton knows history, and tragedy, and literature, finding Joseph Conrad his best guide to Central America and Anton Chekhov his cicerone to the Soviets. He brings us Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King Jr., and Huey Newton; Machiavelli, the Mafia, and Michael Milken; Roy Cohn, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon. His columns from New York present Gotham's indignities and ironies: public indifference to gay- bashing; the demise of a junkie ``incautious with gossip''; an auction of Marilyn Monroe's memorabilia. For anyone interested in journalism, politics, and history, or in the observations of a clear and skeptical eye, nearly every piece has its delights.